At what exact point does a Joe Root innings become noteworthy?

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Joe Root has always been a batsman who’s scored about 40 more runs than you thought he had. Like a man on an e-bike, he glides along far quicker than seems to make sense given the effort he appears to be putting in.

People really didn’t talk about Root all that much during his fourth Test double hundred, against Sri Lanka. He got in, he tried to build a partnership, a wicket fell, and then everyone paid attention to debutant Dan Lawrence for a bit. Next thing you knew, Root was on 90.

Even then, he only really commanded attention for milestones. There was a moment for the hundred, another for the 150 and then maybe half a fraction of a sliver of a moment for making England’s highest individual score in Sri Lanka before suddenly Lawrence was out. After that, we had ‘new batsman’ excitement, then more wickets, before finally arriving at, ‘Oh, what’s this? Root’s got another double.’

Form ebbs and flows (there was no Test hundred in 2020) but Root long ago reached a level where he is just context. Joe Root top-scoring is not newsworthy. In that scenario the second-highest scorer appears in the headline. A Joe Root hundred isn’t really ‘stop the press!’ territory either.

So what is?

For most of that double, Root was ceding centre stage to Lawrence, but at some point the balance shifted. When exactly did his innings move from ‘Root also scored a hundred’ to top billing?

These things vary from innings to innings, but we’d argue that even a ‘daddy hundred‘ (150+) isn’t necessarily enough for people to raise an eyebrow any more – Root’s ninth-highest score is 149 not out, after all.

More than 175 then? More than 180 maybe? They become noteworthy sooner when he starts stringing them together, Test after Test after Test, but for a stand-alone effort, does 200 even feel like much of a thing?

It seems to us that even after suffering relatively fallow periods, Root’s brilliance has become almost entirely unremarkable. We don’t even properly remember his other three doubles.


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  1. Following your enthusiastic preview of Dan Lawrence’s right-arm misdirection, I have got up at 4am for the past three days (not to mention paid for half of a Sky Sports pass) in order to watch his bowling. I am disappointed to report that he has yet to turn his hideously-uncoordinated arm over, nor has Dom Sibley had a go yet. Joe Root hasn’t even bowled one of his experimental leg-breaks.

    This Test certainly has some way to go if it is going to appear in a future episode of ‘That Ridiculous 2020 Tour Of Sri Lanka That Actually Happened In 2021’.

  2. Going past 8000 Test runs was pretty noteworthy, second-fastest to the milestone for England after Pietersen – deceptively quick, you might say.

    1. We realise that every thousand is significant, and that 8,000 is a lot, but 8,000 also seems so mundane.

      8,000 runs just doesn’t feel like a thing. It feels like every innings was the one when Joe Root went past 8,000.

      1. If he goes past 8000 runs every innings, he must be scoring negative runs somewhere in between. Now I think this is technically A Thing if, while fielding, he’s dropping people all the time. Let’s say he misses a dolly catch when someone’s on 40, they go on to score 65, then that’s negative 25 runs right there. Maybe you can be a bit harsher e.g. if they’re batting with the number 11 (who’s on 0*) and your drop stopped the innings coming to a close, even the number 11’s rearguard 13* counts against you. So now you’re on negative 38. But you’d have to be very consistent with your dropping if you’re very consistent with your scoring, otherwise you won’t keep crossing that 8000 boundary. Someone who scores 40 pretty much every innings without you really noticing would end up with a net score of +2 for example, so one problem is that it wouldn’t be very long before their net run aggregate is 8038 or more, and even the negative 38 runs doesn’t get them below 8000 again, therefore they are unable to re-beat the threshold. That batting Rubicon has been permanently crossed.

        I say “wouldn’t be very long”, but at a net of +2 per innings batted, this would take just over 4000 batting innings, and there have been slightly fewer than 2000 Test matches played, hence someone who made their debut on 15 March 1877 and has continued playing for one team or another in every Test since – simultaneously in several matches across multiple continents where necessary, and with certain statistical complications when involved in an innings victory or defeat in which they miss out on either a batting or fielding opportunity – will still be closing in on the net score of 8000. Plus they’d need an excellent health and injury record to stay fit for this whole time. So there is a clear and present danger that my maths might be a bit shaky. But basically I’m not totally convinced that Root can be crossing 8000 every innings. I think it might be unpossible.

      2. Pretty remarkable health to reach that age even setting aside the injury side of things.

  3. I reported the day that Root scored the first of his double-hundreds on this very web site in two separate pieces for this site. Naturally I wasn’t able to mention the cricket, so the moment perhaps went unnoticed by your good self, KC and your readers…

    …especially as the birth of The Lord’s Throdkin was the main topic of one of the KC pieces. Might I also note, KC, that you were invited to join me on that auspicious day, but declined the invitation.

    Here is a link to the Ogblog piece relating to that very day, which, importantly, includes a link to both of the King Cricket match reports:

    It was quite a day. The first Lord’s Throdkin, the first Root double ton and an example of Godwin’s Law in action, all on the same day.

  4. Feeling a bit of a traitor due to hoping Sri Lanka roll England over for less than the required 74 runs here. Partly because it would show that Test cricket is still healthy and competitive and partly to shut up certain England pundits who have been deploring how sub-standard the opposition are – not that Sri Lanka covered themselves in glory in the first half of the Test, but this also ensures any unlikely comeback would be a stunning underdog story. Most of all though, an England collapse of the required magnitude would be both nostalgic and absolutely hilarious. Root’s bowler collision cum run-out being a fine contribution to the cause. This might even just make 1882 level drama – and the sport of cricket has done rather well in public consciousness terms from the ashes of that debacle.

  5. There’s Erica Jong’s idea of the zipless fuck, for which it is essential that you know almost nothing about the person you’re fucking, and that the act has no meaning except in relation to itself, no connection to anything else, no narrative. Maybe Root is the zipless cricketer.

    It could be why I like the idea of a Crawley, Root, Pope middle order. There’s something weightless about it. Just a succession of polite smiles and innings of unobtrusive, smooth professionalism.

    1. But surely KC is describing something very different from “ziplessness”. The zipless cricketer would seek to play in context-free circumstances, such as playing as a team ringer for people the cricketer barely knew.

      The characteristic you are describing, Nick, is the ability of certain cricketers to switch off the part of their brain that understands the context of their endeavour – no-one progresses to international level without a grasp of that meaning – but is able to perform as if the moment lacks context. In that regard, I suspect that Ben Stokes is the master amongst the England players. Root & Bairstow proved themselves to be quite tight-zipped during the harum-scarum incidents late Sunday at Galle.

      But then, one of the key points about Jong’s zipless fuck theme is that it is nigh-on impossible, if not utterly impossible, to achieve.

      1. Your considered and thoughtful response to my weird and incoherent ramblings is enormously appreciated, Ged. What a lovely place this website is.

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