It wasn’t a world record that fans feel privileged to watch or brag about later. It’s highly unlikely that ‘I was there’ T-shirts celebrating the highest ever 10th wicket stand, 198 between Joe Root and James Anderson, will be printed. And in case they do, they sure wouldn’t be flying off the shelves.
What they will remember from Day 4 of this Test, and boast about witnessing in days to come, will be the grim and gritty innings of 154 not out by England cricket’s poster boy and the next big batsman from Yorkshire, the 23-year-old Root. As for the merchandise that is expected to constantly run out of stock in the future; it is likely to have ‘Root’ written on it.
Element of fun
Like most unexpected big knocks by tailenders, Anderson’s 81 had an element of fun to it. Each of the boundaries was applauded lustily, but the fans clapped with an ‘enjoy till it lasts’ smile on their faces. Trent Bridge let out a roar for Anderson’s exquisite drive like they once did in the Caribbean when say an Ambrose or a Walsh played copy book dead bat defensive shot.
When it came to Root, the applause had a sense of anticipation. It invited investment for the future. The No.5, who had fashioned a recovery after Friday’s sudden collapse, promised stability to the England lower middle-order in the future. With an average of 47 from 18 Tests, he looked the real deal, the mainstay the teams look for all the time. After starting the season with a double hundred against Sri Lanka last month, he started the India series with a marathon, back-to-the-wall knock that has taken England from the brink of defeat to dream about an unlikely win.
After England had taken a lead of 39 runs, because of the 496 they managed after being 202/7, India suffered setbacks late in the day. When Murali Vijay (52) and Cheteshwar Pujara (55) fell to loose strokes in the final 10 overs, the locals found their voice. At stumps, India were 167/3, leading by 128 runs. With a day to go, a draw seems likely, but this has been a Test of surprises. England now expect an extraordinary effort from their bowlers early on Sunday to be optimistic about the weekend, the first Test, the series and beyond.
That’s something the fans wouldn’t have expected when Root and Anderson walked in to bat on Saturday. Very soon, Root was to take control of the situation as he decided when to bat and when to let the No.11 take strike. He might be among the youngsters in the English squad but he is an old hand at the game. There happens to be a picture of a ‘one-day old’ Root tucked in his crib holding a cardboard bat.
Cricket was serious affair for the family from Sheffield. His father was a club player, but it was his grandfather Don who took young Joe around the junior circuit. Don was a constant figure on the sidelines as young Root grew as a batsman. Fellow Yorkshireman and former England captain Michael Vaughan was to present him a ‘chest guard’ that Geoffrey Boycott, the legend from the region, once wore and passed on to him. The two were in the commentary box when Root was turning the game on its head. Needless to say, Root’s heroics weren’t going unnoticed.
There’s a popular joke about Boycott’s fondness for Root. Grandfather Don having reportedly told his friends, “Listening to Boycott on the radio go on about Joe, you’d think he’s taken over from me as grandad!”
On Saturday, there were many around Trent Bridge who were ready to adopt the boy with an angelic smile and a devilish appetite for runs.