Cricket: Sheffield’s Joe Root growing into life as key man for England

England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 100 not out during day one of the Investec Test match at Lord's
England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 100 not out during day one of the Investec Test match at Lord's

Joe Root is doing his best to get accustomed to a senior role in England’s redeveloping Test match team.

Sheffield Collegiate product Root marked his return, having been dropped during England’s Ashes whitewash last winter, with an unbeaten 102 out of 344 for five on day one of the first Investec Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s.

He shared an unbroken century stand with Matt Prior (76no) - another player restating his case, after being deemed temporarily surplus to requirements Down Under.

For 23-year-old Root, acting as an elder statesman is an odd yet partially accurate notion in a team featuring three debutants as England try to relocate a winning formula.

“It is slightly bizarre - but that is part of being in a developing side like we are,” he said.

“I’ve got to try to take a bit more responsibility, and hope to help the guys coming into the side.

“If they want some advice, I’m more than ready to offer it - the little I have.”

He was rightly impressed by what he saw from new cap Moeen Ali, with whom he put on 89 for the fourth wicket, and knows from close quarters at Yorkshire that England’s new number three Gary Ballance also has what it takes.

“For Moeen to play the way he did on debut... with those elegant strokes, and making it look so easy at times... took a lot of pressure off me,” added Root.

“It is really exciting to see him start his career the way he has.

“This is probably one of the toughest arenas to start at, and it just shows how good a player he is to come in and bat the way he has.

“Obviously it’s just a start for him, and I’m really pleased for him as a mate as well.”

Ballance made only 23, but helped alongside Ian Bell (56) in a recovery from 22 for two after England had been put in.

“Gary is a fantastic player at three, and I have full confidence he’ll come in - whether in this second innings, or the next Test - and score some really big runs,” said Root.

“He’s shown glimpses of that so far in his international career, and he’s proved it at first-class level.

“He has fantastic stats, and has had a fine start to the summer. So I’ve no doubt he’s going to be a fine Test player as well.”

Root had a point to prove, having been dropped for the final two Ashes Tests, and wasted no time doing so.

“I knew there were areas in the winter I needed to work on,” he added.

“Over the last couple of months, when I’ve been fit, I’ve been trying to make sure I can improve those.

“It’s nowhere near the full package yet, but I hope there have been slight improvements.”