@Ben_Wisden 5 minute read
Joe Root has now been a Test cricketer for ten years. Ben Gardner ranks all of his 28 hundreds, from worst to best.
It is a decade ago this week since Joe Root made his England Test debut, a cherubic 21-year-old beamed down from the heavens to secure England a series win in India. His 73 was uncluttered and reamrkably unfettered by the pressures of Test cricket. But it wasn’t a century, which is what we’re dealing with here, 10 years and 28 hundreds later.
(Fun fact: Just over a year ago, I also ranked Root’s Test hundreds. The piece began: England captain has now made 21 Test hundreds, with all coming in victory or a stalemate; if Root succeeds, England don’t lose. He is no longer England captain. The very next Test after that ranking, he made his first hundred in a defeat. And he has added another seven tons since then.)
All 28 of Joe Root’s Test hundreds, ranked from worst to best
28. 136 v West Indies, Edgbaston, August 17-19, 2017
England were 39-2 at one point, and West Indies would show at Headingley that they weren’t actually terrible, but the tourists’ efforts in the first Test, a day-nighter, suggested otherwise. Alastair Cook made one of those flat-pitch big doubles that pockmarked his latter career, and Dawid Malan’s 65 felt almost like a failure, so it’s dead last.
27. 226 v New Zealand, Hamilton, November 29-December 3, 2019
It says plenty when a ton down near the bottom of your list is a double away from home against one of the best teams in the world. But this was such a dead track, with only 22 wickets falling in the game, that it doesn’t rank too highly.
26. 109 v West Indies, Antigua, March 8-12, 2022
OK, so arguably Root dusted off the horrors of the Ashes and showed he was still just as good as ever to set up a victory push. But by day four the wicket was flat – Zak Crawley also made a hundred – and England couldn’t get that win.
25. 153 v West Indies, Barbados, March 16-21, 2022
It’s tough to split the two Caribbean centuries in the death throes of Root’s captaincy, but Barbados was bigger and the ovation he got when bringing up the milestone showed that, no matter how bad England were, the Golden Boy would retain his place in the hearts of the faithful. Plus, I was there to watch it. Funny how England’s last ton before Ben Stokes took over was his slowest, the only one to come at a strike rate of under 50.
24. 122 v West Indies, Gros Islet, February 9-12, 2019
A ton in an overseas win, but West Indies had already won the series, and some of the intensity had gone. England also had a big lead. Meh.
23. 124 v India, Rajkot, November 9-13, 2016
Flat pitch, drab draw. At the time it felt like it might set the tone for a series in which England could compete with India. With hindsight, it did not.
22. 180 v Australia, Lord’s, July 18-21, 2013
A near-double in an Ashes win, but also one that came at a funereal – for Root – strike-rate of 52. With England claiming a first-innings lead of over 200, this just dragged out the inevitable. It also convinced us he could be a Test opener, which is a bad thing on the whole.
21. 180* v India, Lord’s, August 12-16, 2021
Joe Root was properly imperious, and so far ahead of the rest. But also, the pitch was quite flat and England lost (the first time that had happened in a game in which Root tonned up).
20. 154* v India, Trent Bridge, July 9-13, 2014
You can make the argument this is a great knock, with England 298-9, more than 150 runs behind, and somehow still claiming a lead due to Root’s brilliance. But James Anderson made 81, so batting can’t have been too taxing.
19. 149* v India, The Oval, August 15-17, 2014
This is technically a daddy hundred at nearly a run a ball to seal a series win against one of the best teams in the world. But India had already mentally checked out, slipping to 90-9 on the first day and bowled out for 94 in the third innings, and Root had a rare platform, coming in at 203-3.
18. 121 v India, Headingley, August 25-28, 2021
The last hurrah of Root’s Test captaincy came at his home ground. He had a rare platform – until this winter, 159-2 was his best ever platform at No.4 – and England had already doubled India’s first innings score, which pushes it down a bit.
17. 125 v India, The Oval, September 7-11, 2018
England had already won the series, but India hadn’t given up. Joe Root played second fiddle to Cook’s magnificent swansong, but given this was peak ‘conversion rate woes’ time, it carries personal significance.
16. 228 v Sri Lanka, Galle, January 14-18, 2021
Sri Lanka were hilariously crap in the first innings, gifting Dom Bess a five-for, and Root got plenty of support, for once. But given the travails of 2020, his only century-less year in Test cricket, this felt like a new page had been turned. Ten more tons since then suggests it wasn’t just a page, it was a whole new chapter.
15. 176 v New Zealand, Trent Bridge, June 10-14, 2022
The least good of Root’s three tons under Stokes, only because the pitch was laden with runs. It did include a scoop for six however, less than a week after Geoffrey Boycott had said that what makes Root great is that he never scoops.
14. 182* v West Indies, St. George’s, April 21-25, 2015
Root had a rare platform, coming in at 162-3, and again, West Indies felt limited, even though they would prove competitive in the third, earning a series-levelling draw. He stroked it on a pitch where few others could, and looked suitably annoyed after a dozy Anderson run out robbed him of a dart at a double.
13. 200* v Sri Lanka, Lord’s, June 12-16, 2014
A ton to banish some of the pain of the winter, and to reassert Root as a world-class talent after his one and only Test dropping.
12. 104 v New Zealand, Headingley, May 24-28, 2013
At Root’s home ground, England slipped to three down early on, with the future captain embracing the familiar feeling of walking in before lunch. His ton underpinned a total just above 350, setting the platform for a series-sealing win. Boult and Southee weren’t quite the bowlers they are now, but the pitch still had enough in it. This is also one of Root’s busiest hundreds, with a strike-rate of 62 despite containing only nine fours.
11. 190 v South Africa, Lord’s, July 6-9, 2017
Captaincy didn’t always go smoothly, but it started out pretty well. Root was battling flu, and faced with an attack containing Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, but still strummed 190 at nearly a run a ball.
10. 254 v Pakistan, Old Trafford, July 22-25, 2016
Perhaps Root’s most flawless innings. In a way, it’s an innings he might rue, given it came at No.3 and suggested he could be a long-term first-drop. With England having lost the opener, this was an important knock, and came against a strong attack.
9. 134 v Australia, Sophia Gardens, July 8-12, 2015
England weren’t given much chance in the 2015 Ashes, after the twin debacles in Australia the two winters hence. Root’s hundred on the first day of the series, while chancey, set the tone for a rollicking win, and despite a pair of London drubbings, England would go on to win 3-2.
8. 130 v Australia, Trent Bridge, August 6-8, 2015
Day one started with Stuart Broad’s 8-15, Australia 60 all out, and the Ashes all but won. Root confirmed there would be no comeback, and by stumps he had doubled Australia’s score by himself. He played beautifully too.
7. 186 v Sri Lanka, Galle, January 22-25, 2021
Given the game situation, this was far superior to his double in the opening game of the series. Sri Lanka had actually batted OK for once, and England were 5-2 when Root walked in. He ended up with well over half the runs to his name, and a second series whitewash in Sri Lanka secured.
6. 124 v Sri Lanka, Pallekele, November 14-18, 2018
The crowning moment of England’s bright but brief ‘Total Cricket’ phase. Root’s dashing knock dragged England from effectively 62-4 to a match-winning lead, and confirmed a series win away from home against good opposition.
5. 142* v India, Edgbaston, July 1-4, 2022
It’s a rapid hundred to ace a record chase and salvage a series draw against arguably the world’s best team. It’s a marker of how ridiculous the McCullum months have been – and how good Root is – that it only just sneaks in the top five.
4. 109 v India, Trent Bridge, August 4-8, 2021
On the one hand, this is a hundred in a draw which probably would have been a loss without weather intervening. On the other, India’s attack is one of the best Root has tonned up against, and had he failed, the consequences could have been disastrous. England could have been staring at nine more Tests against India and Australia with a malfunctioning batting line-up and in danger of losing all of them.
3. 115* v New Zealand, Lord’s, June 2-5, 2022
Could the Bazball revolution have failed before it had started without this ton? Back in the first Test of the summer, England’s batting was still dependent on Root, with a little help from Ben Stokes. And this was a masterclass, on a tricky pitch, whirring and scuttling at the perfect paced to avoid the second new ball and to get England’s fans their money back. Man of the people.
2. 110 v South Africa, Johannesburg, January 14-16, 2016
Away from home to win a series against the No.1 side in the world, giving England a slim lead against an attack filled with greats. Very nearly the best there is.
1. 218 v India, Chennai, February 5-9, 2021
Forget what came after it for a second. England’s win in the first Test ranks among their best in the last 30 years, and it was underpinned by Root, in the form of his life. When you remember again what came after it, how badly England struggled, it’s even more remarkable that Root was so dominant against an attack who would end up all over his team.