There’s no one quite like Joe Root at converting tons into ‘daddy hundreds’
JOE ROOT has often been criticised for his conversion rate – 17 Test hundreds versus 45 Test fifties.
But when he does reach three figures he likes to go big.
Root’s 226 against New Zealand in Hamilton was his third Test double hundred, putting him behind only Wally Hammond (seven), Alastair Cook (five) and Len Hutton (four) in terms of English batsmen.
Seven of Root’s 17 Test centuries have exceeded 150, a ratio that might have been even better had he not been left stranded on 149 not out against India at the Oval in 2014.
This is a man who is difficult to dislodge when high numbers stack up.
As England scored 476 on day four of the second Test, a first innings lead of 101 before New Zealand finished on 96-2, Root also moved into 10th place on the list of England’s leading Test match run-scorers.
That is quite some achievement – not least as none of the great names above him (Cook, Gooch, Stewart, Gower, Pietersen, Boycott, Atherton, Bell, Cowdrey) had a better average than Root’s 48.54.
The question now is how far up the ladder can he climb?
Root does not turn 29 until later this month – time aplenty, one would imagine, to go from his current tally of 7,282 runs and past Graham Gooch’s 8900 and into second position, although Alastair Cook’s 12,472 may be a bridge too far.
All of which proves that Root is not just one of the great players of the modern generation, but one of the all-time greats of English Test cricket and Test cricket full stop.
Yes, his conversion rate will still niggle his critics.
Virat Kohli, for example, has scored 27 hundreds versus 22 fifties, and Steve Smith 26 hundreds versus 27 fifties.
But Root’s consistency is still remarkable.
Even in his recent “slump” – over nine months without a Test hundred prior to Hamilton – he still managed four fifties in last summer’s Ashes.
It is interesting to note that of Root’s 17 Test centuries, only two have been less than 122 – an ostensibly arbitrary figure, but one that reflects a more condensed grouping from that point onwards and actually proves perfectly that he rarely gives it away on reaching three figures.
Indeed, Root has always had this facility for making big hundreds – “daddy hundreds”, as the players like to call them.
His maiden first-class century for Yorkshire was not just a nice creep over the line only to then get out as soon as the applause had subsided for his hundred; on the contrary, Root turned it into an innings of 160 against Sussex at Scarborough in 2011.
Starting with that score, his seven first-class hundreds for Yorkshire have also revealed a similar appetite for cashing in: 160, 125, 222 not out, 182, 236, 213 and 130 not out.
Of his 27 first-class centuries in total (the others have come in various representative games), the “only two scores less than 122” statistic still applies, with 13 of those centuries over 150 and six of them doubles, with a highest of 254 against Pakistan at Old Trafford in 2016.
So well did Root bat in Hamilton, one would not have bet against him surpassing that career-best score and achieving what would have been the second Test match triple hundred in the space of three days, thereby following Australia’s David Warner into the record books.
As it was, that particular distinction will have to wait, but if anyone in this England side is capable of scoring 300, it is surely Root.
The innings gave him great satisfaction, of course, for not only has his own form been below his own high standards, but his side have consistently struggled to post big first innings totals.
Root, who became the first visiting captain to make a double hundred in New Zealand, and who batted for over ten-and-a-half hours and faced 442 balls, was well supported by Ollie Pope, who scored his maiden Test fifty.
Pope looks like a batsman in the Root mould and it was an innings that should give him great confidence in the early stages of his Test career.
He certainly has no better role model than the England captain, who was back to his greedy, run-scoring best.