LONDON: Joe Root was hailed as England’s “Mr Dependable” by new captain Ben Stokes after his predecessor’s unbeaten century helped launch the all-rounder’s reign with a five-wicket win over New Zealand in the first Test at Lord’s on Sunday.
Root made 115 not out as England chased down a target of 277 with wicketkeeper Ben Foakes (32 not out) providing excellent support in an unbroken partnership of 120.
Victory, achieved with more than a day to spare, saw England to just their second win in 18 Tests.
When Root completed his 26th century at this level he became the only player to have scored 10,000 runs within ten years of his Test debut.
The Yorkshireman was also only the second Englishman to do so and the joint-youngest from any country to achieve the feat, equalling retired former England captain Alastair Cook’s record of 31 years 157 days.
“The game ebbed and flowed throughout the whole time,” said Stokes at the presentation ceremony.
“No-one ever really had the upper hand at any stage and I thought the way we handled the pressure in the fourth innings to chase down 270 on a pretty difficult wicket was fantastic.
“And obviously ‘Mr Dependable’, Joe Root, stood up. Scoring and 10,000 runs – what a player and what a man.”
The New Zealand-born Stokes, brought up in Cumbria, northwest England, added: “Regardless of being captain, the first Test match of the summer has always got a buzz about it, but obviously it was a special week.
“To come away with the win obviously makes it even better.”
Root stood down as England’s Test captain after five years at the helm and a record 64 games in charge following a 1-0 series loss in the Caribbean earlier this year that came hot on the heels of a convincing 4-0 Ashes defeat.
England came into this match bottom of the World Test Championship table but are now 1-0 up in a three-game series against title-holders New Zealand heading into Friday’s second match at Trent Bridge.
For Root, playing a key role in a win was more important than any personal milestones.
“Obviously it feels fantastic,” he said. “More than anything, first of all, for us to have won this Test match after such a long time is the greatest feeling of all.
“It’s been a tough road for everyone but the way everyone has gone about it has been so enjoyable…I love batting and I just want to keep batting for as long as I can, and score as many runs as I can, to help us win as many Test matches as we can.”
Root, a close friend of Stokes since they played youth cricket together, added: “I couldn’t wish for a better person to be leading this team.
“It was nice to do it for Ben. The amount of times he has done it for me over the years. It is nice to do it back for him.”
New Zealand were on top for much of this match and would have reduced England to 76 for five in their second innings but for Colin de Grandhomme bowling Stokes, then on one, with a no-ball.
Stokes went on to make 54 and share a partnership of 90 with Root.
“The game ebbed and flowed the whole time,” said New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
The Black Caps skipper, himself one of the world’s leading batsmen, hailed Root’s century as an “incredible innings”.
“You recognise the quality of the player and his longevity as a world-class player,” he added.