Yorkshire CCC’s Joe Root proves his own special powers in contrast to Ben Stokes’ Durham blitz
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IN his first innings since taking over as England’s Test captain, Ben Stokes smashed a 64-ball hundred, a County Championship record 17 sixes in an innings, and the fastest century in Durham’s history.
It was always unrealistic to expect Joe Root to achieve similar feats in his first innings since relinquishing the reins to Stokes, but the Yorkshireman still produced a polished 75 against Essex on Saturday.
Stokes can do things that few men can do, such as strike the first five balls of an over for six and the last for four, as he did to the Worcestershire left-arm spinner Josh Baker at New Road on Friday.
Root is blessed with similar powers albeit of the more classical sort; not for him the muscular brutality of his international team-mate, who narrowly failed to become the third man to hit six sixes in an over in first-class cricket after Sir Garry Sobers and Ravi Shastri.
Root’s appearance on a mostly cloudy day three in Chelmsford, one on which eight overs were lost to rain during the morning, was the chief attraction for some who attended, but he was far from the only star of the show.
Harry Brook (110) and Dawid Malan (87) continued their remarkable form as the visitors reached 425-5, a lead of 22, Brook achieving his sixth successive score of 50-plus from the start of the season, including three hundreds, and Malan his fifth consecutive half-century, including one hundred. Or, to put it another way, that’s 11 times now in 12 innings that Brook and Malan have passed 50, the only blemish on the record, as it were, being Malan’s first innings score of 39 in the opening game against Gloucestershire in Bristol.
A No 3/No 4/No 5 of Malan, Root and Brook should be England’s way forward for the New Zealand Test series, although that would leave an obvious hole in the Yorkshire line-up.
Root was straight into the action when Yorkshire started the day on 81-3, having dropped down to No 5 after Matty Revis, the nightwatchman, had been promoted to protect him.
Playing his 50th Championship match, a little over 11 years after his first, Root got off the mark by square-driving Sam Cook to the boundary and unveiled some classy strokes on a slow and flat pitch.
A 37th first-class hundred looked more than likely but Root was bowled trying to chop down on a Matt Critchley googly which dislodged the leg bail. He walked off to a warm hand from the 1,000 crowd, having faced 112 balls and hit nine fours.
Revis played well for 47 from 157 balls with four boundaries and shared a fourth-wicket stand with Root of 124. He was run out after clipping off-spinner Simon Harmer to mid-wicket and setting off for an aborted single as Critchley pulled off a fine diving stop and return to the wicketkeeper.
When Root fell, Yorkshire were 215-5 and still 39 shy of avoiding the follow-on, but Brook and Malan changed the picture completely, Brook opening his account by slog-sweeping his second ball for six off Harmer and bringing up his hundred with a leg-side six off Critchley that lifted Yorkshire in front.