Five times Joe Root made a Test hundred and no-one really noticed

Posted by
5 minute read

Joe Root has been so reliably and frequently excellent that at times it hasn’t even felt that interesting. Today is a celebration of Root’s overlooked brilliance.

“Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, ‘Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.’”

Except he can’t.

It’s widely acknowledged that while Jack Burton is the central character in Big Trouble in Little China, he isn’t the hero. While Jack’s centre screen, crashing about and mouthing off about himself , Wang Chi is the one doing all the brave and difficult stuff to rescue his fiancée.

Wang is the man with the plan, skills and conviction… but Jack is Kurt Russell in a vest. He’s just a lot more noticeable; a lot harder to ignore. He’s a lot more watchable, if we’re honest.

Jack routinely makes terrible decisions. Jack needs to be talked out of giving up. Jack gets his gun snatched off him or forgets to take the safety off. At one point he misses an entire fight because he’s knocked himself out. He misses another running off to collect his knife after accidentally flinging it sideways.

All of this means that when Jack does manage something halfway competent, it’s memorable.

Thing is, Jack wouldn’t be in the position to deliver the coup de grace – wouldn’t be anywhere close – if it weren’t for Wang.

Joe Root is Wang Chi

It’s not that we never notice Joe Root. He isn’t hiding in the shadows or anything. It’s just that after a hundred-and-however-many Test matches and 30-odd hundreds, a lot of his innings that would make headlines if they were played by someone else are no longer newsworthy coming from him.

It’s the Tendulkar effect really. At a certain point, a cricketer becomes so well-established and so familiar that their feats become merely a continuation. It doesn’t feel like any innings delivers fresh information any more. They instead become compilations; a load of old hits served up in a slightly unfamiliar combination.

Some players are labelled ‘match winners’. These players deal in outliers; attention-grabbing one-offs that are way beyond their usual level of performance. That’s how they tip the balance of a game.

The very best don’t limit themselves to that. Someone like Root contributes more than his fair share of match-winning innings, but he also knocks out supporting act hundreds and valiant face-saving tons in what would otherwise be humiliating defeats.

Not for Root the dilettante glory of the match winner. For him run-scoring is a full-time job – a way of being even.

Root hundreds are no big deal. Root hundreds are business as usual.

Why does Joe Root always seem to work it out and no-one else does?

130 v Australia, 2015

Root top-scored in the fourth Test of the 2015 Ashes. He did it on the first day and yet those four hours of serene strokeplay barely registered with anyone.

It’s worth pointing out he isn’t the only player in this match who’s routinely overlooked. Ben Stokes took 6-36 in the second innings to secure victory and no-one really remembers that either.

As far as history and memory are concerned, only one thing happened in this game: Stuart Broad’s weird-beyond-weird 8-15 on the first morning.

125 v India, 2018

This one really should have registered. Root had, after all, gone 13 months without a hundred – a briefly concerning patch of barren desert scrub in the middle of the absolute quagmire of runs that is his wider career.

However, Root decided to pop this reassuring return to form out of the packaging on the occasion of Alastair Cook’s final Test, on a day when Cook himself would also reach three figures. Rishabh Pant brought up his first Test hundred with a six the following day.

109 v West Indies, 2022

England raced to 48-4 in the first hour, at which point Jonny Bairstow made 140. Then Nkrumah Bonner made 123. After that, Zak Crawley – fresh from a year in which he’d made 11 single-figure scores in 16 innings – made 121, only for Bonner and Jason Holder to defiantly bat out the draw. Somewhere in amongst it all, Root made another hundred.

Why was this one so easy to overlook? Well, the previous year he’d made six tons and all of England’s other batters put together had made one. At this point ‘Man Who Isn’t Joe Root Hits Hundred’ was a viable headline.

176 v New Zealand, 2022

The early part of this match was dominated by a titanic 190 from Daryl Mitchell, in partnership with Tom Blundell, who made 106, after the same two men had already combined for a 195-run partnership in the previous Test.

Root then ceded centre stage to Ollie Pope, who hit his first home hundred – four years after making his debut – in what was only his third first-class innings at number three. Much excitement ensued with people wondering whether England had maybe found their next great batter. Root, meanwhile, was somewhere in the vicinity making his fastest Test hundred; his fourth hundred in five matches; and his 27th of 31 overall (and counting).

By the time he reached three figures, he was already confined to “Joe Root also made a hundred” territory, but then just to put the top hat on it, Jonny Bairstow went absolutely mental.

153 not out v New Zealand, 2023

Emerging at 21-2 to make an unbeaten hundred should be newsworthy even if you don’t deliver that while scoring at four runs an over. Unfortunately for Root, the next man in, Harry Brook, was already on 184 by the time he reached three figures.

It was Brook’s fourth Test hundred in his first six innings, which is a thing that’s kind of hard to see past. And just in case Root harboured any illusions he might get a brief moment for his own achievement, they went off for rain at the exact moment he reached three figures and didn’t come on again until the following day.

Root also made 95 in the second innings as England fell two runs short of their victory target. We did the obvious thing and wrote a big piece about how majestically irritated Jimmy Anderson looked when that final wicket fell.

Joe Root is a reasonable guy, but he’s experienced some very unreasonable things.

The almighty cumulative power of Joe Root’s nothing shot

About this article

We didn’t used to have the time to do longer features like this, so a big thank you to anyone who’s ever contributed to our Patreon campaign which is what makes this kind of thing possible.

There’s always a bit of turnover in the King Cricket Patreon community, so we’re keen to get new backers through the door whenever we can. If you’d like to support the site for a stint, please take a look.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


Why risk it when it's so easy to sign up?


  1. I’m enjoying the timing of this article immediately before two Sri Lankans each score ostensibly indistinguishable 102s in a test innings. A partnership of 202 out of 280ao, with the next best score 17. Test cricket eh?

    Test cricket.

Comments are closed.