Baby-faced Joe becomes a man with first Test century at ‘home’

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The rapturous applause that greeted Joe Root’s maiden Test century had barely died down when his team-mates began to poke fun at English cricket’s brightest young star.

“Our Joe sticks to apple juice and a carton of milk at nap time,” Graeme Swann tweeted.

Kevin Pietersen, who could feature alongside Root in the Ashes against Australia this summer, added: “Today is historic... the first nine-year-old old to score a Test 100!”

But Root, a 22-year-old who could sometimes pass for ten years younger, showed he is anything but a boy as he drove, cut and pulled his way to three figures in the Test arena for the first time.

Root first breezed into Headingley as a tentative ten-year-old, nervous about his first Yorkshire trial.

Twelve years later, on May 25, 2013, that boy became a man on the very same stage.

In only his sixth Test match, Root played with all the maturity and assurance of a veteran playing his 106th.

There were times when it appeared like a first Test century at Headingley may just be too good to be true.

Root survived a caught behind appeal which, on review, was shown to have flicked pad, not bat.

He was then almost run out in the worst fashion possible, when Jonny Bairstow’s straight drive was deflected onto the stumps by Neil Wagner’s fingertips.

In cricket, they’re known as the ‘nervous nineties’ and they certainly were for yours truly, as I sat gripped to Sky Sports’ coverage.

But Root showed no such tension as he laughed his way through both appeals, before guiding the ball down to third man to bring up his three figures.

Only then did the emotion pour out of England’s newest hero.

All the thousands of hours of cricket practice, fending off balls from his father Matt and brother Billy, were for this moment.

A punch of the air, a jig of delight and a thunderous round of applause from a delighted home crowd made it an occasion that this boy wonder will never forget.

His first taste of Test cricket on English soil ended with the Man of the Series champagne - and another barb from Swann, who claimed 10 wickets as England won by 247 runs: “When I was 14, I wasn’t that good!”

Now, Root’s next taste of Test action will be on the biggest stage of all - the Ashes.

The debate about whether he should open the batting - as he does for Yorkshire - in place of Nick Compton will rumble on.

“Joe has a very sound technique,” former England captain Michael Vaughan, a fellow product of Sheffield Collegiate CC, said.

“He has a basic forward press and backward movement that gets him into a nice neutral position to open up the front foot.

“He uses the depth of his crease and plays nice cuts and forcing shots through extra cover. His head position is perfect.

“Everything is very simple. Batting is about minimising risk with your technique. He has the perfect technique to minimise risk by playing good bowling very late.

“At the moment England’s top three is pedestrian. I would love to be a captain setting fields to (Alastair) Cook, Compton and Jonathan Trott.

“But add Root to the mix in place of Compton and suddenly there is a dynamic force in the top three.

He can be the perfect foil for Cook. They are youthful and could be a terrific opening partnership for years.”

Root’s attention now turns to three ODI’s against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s tomorrow ahead of next month’s ICC Champions Trophy.