Joe Root inspired England to the highest fourth-innings run-chase in their history, then admitted Ben Stokes had encouraged his players to become ‘rock stars’ as they attempt to take Test cricket to new heights.
An hour and a half after he and Jonny Bairstow had blown India away by seven wickets with an unbroken stand of 269 – England’s highest partnership in a successful chase since 1939 – Root was still trying to process the scale of their achievement.
‘It’s like being a kid again,’ he said. ‘It’s great. It’s how it felt when I first started playing. It’s how it should be, and hopefully the way we’re playing can inspire youngsters to take up the game and enjoy it.’
Joe Root hit an unbeaten 142 to inspire England in their highest ever fourth innings run chase
The 31-year-old dazzled the Edgbaston crowd with his box of tricks as England hunted 378
Root confessed he hadn’t heard the term ‘Bazball’ until shortly before the game, but said Stokes had been using a different image to rally his players.
‘Ben’s wanted us to be entertainers,’ he said. ‘He mentioned us trying to be rock stars on the field. It’s more about trying to have fun and relish every opportunity we get to showcase what we’re about.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star but for 10 seconds I might have done today. The Yorkshireman in me is still saying “dig in, play straight and get behind it”. Then the captain on the other shoulder is saying “be a rock star”.’
Root, whose 142 not out was his fifth Test hundred of the year, and his 11th since the start of 2021, said England’s new approach was bound to affect the way opponents viewed them.
New captain Ben Stokes has been praised for his exciting new brand of English Test cricket
Root (L) produced an unbeaten 269 partnership with fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow (R)
‘Before the game, Ben said: “We’re going to chase.” When you’ve done it once, that does make it easier. Now we’ve done it a few times, which breeds a huge amount of confidence. Sides around the world are looking the way we’ve been playing, and are going to be a little bit intimidated.’
Stokes himself revealed the dressing-room’s new mindset when he said ‘there was a bit of me that almost wanted them to get 450 ahead, just to see what we did’.
Instead, he had to settle for a chase of 378, following successful pursuits of 277, 299 and 296 against New Zealand. The four chases have produced a combined run-rate of 4.82 – an absurd rate of scoring at any stage of a Test match, let alone in the fourth innings.
‘I’m extremely proud,’ said Stokes. ‘The last five weeks have been an incredible turnaround. I don’t think everyone can understand what has happened here.’
Following his impressive 114 against India, Bairstow has scored 589 runs in his last five innings
‘The message has been that the results will look after themselves. Just go out and entertain, just enjoy it. You’re playing for England. You’re doing something you did as a kid, and now you’re playing for your country.
‘If this isn’t fun and you’re not enjoying every moment, then you’re doing something wrong. Let’s go and get people to fall in love with Test cricket again.
‘Teams are perhaps better than us, but teams won’t be braver than us. Jack Leach said that to me about two minutes ago and it is a great way to sum things up.’
Meanwhile, Bairstow now has six Test hundreds this year, as many as he had made between his debut in 2012 and the start of 2022.
‘It is really special to knock off 378 with just three down,’ he said. ‘It is something we’ll never forget. After day two, I got asked “what do you think is too many?” and I said: “Whatever they set, we’ll go for.” And that’s exactly what we did.’
Root hit his 11th Test hundred since the start of 2021 against India – taking his overall tally to 28
For India, it was a chastening conclusion to a series they refused to play to its natural conclusion last summer, when they used Covid as an excuse to leave Manchester before the fifth Test and ensure they could get to the rescheduled IPL in time.
Had they stayed at Old Trafford, they might easily have completed a 3-1 win over a struggling England side. Now, the record books will say 2-2.
‘I don’t want to make excuses,’ said Rahul Dravid, their coach. ‘I wasn’t part of the team then. India was on a roll at that stage, and England in a slightly different situation.
‘They’ve come here on the back of three wins against New Zealand, and we’ve had a long gap between Tests, but no excuses. They did that better than us and it’s why they deserved to win this Test match.’