England vs South Africa, ICC World T20: Joe Root breaks ground, England flower

Joe Root rises to the occasion, helps England to victory after record chase; South Africa unable to shake off chokers tag.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Mumbai | Updated: March 19, 2016 12:13:59 pm
England vs South Africa, South Africa vs England, Eng vs SA, SA vs Eng, World T20, T20 World Cup, Joe Root, Joe Root England, Joe Root 83, Root, Cricket News, Cricket Joe Root added 75 for the fifth wicket with Jos Buttler to set up an unlikely victory for England. (Source: Reuters)

Over 1: 4, 4, dot, 5 wides, 4, dot, 4

Over 2: 4, 4, 4, 1, 4, 6

THE first over had gone for 21 runs. Kagiso Rabada had seen four of his six legal deliveries disappear to the boundary. It was a blitz, and the young pacer simply didn’t know what hit him. Dale Steyn was next. You thought, Jason Roy and Alex Hales wouldn’t treat him with the same disdain, or at least go after him with the same intent. But they did. In fact, they would not just take him on but take him apart, the over costing him 23 runs and ensuring that Steyn didn’t return to the attack till much later. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)

We’d heard all about it. The revolution of English cricket. The rise of an intrepid new era where young Englishmen boldly dare to go where none of their predecessors have gone before, or at least not with the same machismo anyway. And they have shown glimpses of it in the last 8-9 months in the limited-overs format. But in the space of these two overs — as they commenced their pursuit of a mammoth total of 230 — more than ever before English cricket showed the world that it had truly turned the page, and come off age. That they had finally moved on from artistic rock to speed metal.

That they were now a serious contender to the crown even in the shortest format.

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Once Roy and Hales had smashed 44 off the first two overs, they had not only set the tone for their team but they had sent the opposition into panic mode, despite them having dominated the contest till that point. And South Africa never quite recovered from it, with England chasing down the second highest total in international T20 history, in the end rather comfortably.

Following Hales’ dismissal, Roy would continue the onslaught a while later, before falling to the sword while attempting a second ramp shot on the trot. By then the score had soared to 71 and three balls still remained in the fifth over. Having rocked the South African boat, England now needed a calm, calculated head to steer their ship home. They couldn’t have asked for a better man to walk in than Joe Root.

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Root looks every bit a quintessential English cricketer but embodies the new-found vigour of English cricket better than anyone else. He plays every shot there is to play, and often with an added pinch of oomph, but at the same time never shies away from pushing the envelope with his stroke-play. But rarely does he seem not in control of the situation, and that is his greatest attribute.

WATCH: England stun South Africa, chase record total

Off the first 10 balls he faced, Root just pushed the ball around not really to put the brakes on but more to get the team’s innings into cruise-mode. The early onslaught had given him that luxury, and he was going to make the most of it. But once JP Duminy handed him a long-hop, he was ready to dispatch it over mid-wicket to break a boundary draught that had stretched to almost 30 deliveries. It was off the next ball he faced that Root showed off his true class, upper-cutting a Chris Morris delivery over deep point boundary with the dollops of flair—a shot that requires lots of power but one that he made look easy. From that point on, Root was in command.

Growing up on pitches where the ball moves and bounces around, young English and South African batsmen must often hear about a wonderland far away where the pitches are flat, the ball comes on nicely on to the bat without any lateral movement, and you can swing your bat freely with no fear in the world. On Friday at the Wankhede, they came across it, and you only need to see the scores to know how much they appreciated it—11 out of 16 batsmen in the innings with a strike-rate of over 150.

A few overs after the upper-cut six, by when he had taken England well within reach, Root would produce another classic, an elegant lofted off-drive that would scream over deep cover for six. And though he didn’t quite finish the job, his 44-ball 83 had helped England not only break a world record but also some tradition along the way.

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