But perhaps more importantly, it was a century that saw Root first come back into the ranks of England, having stepped down from a role he had held with pride for five years and a national record of 64 games, but relented after the match had turned into an “unhealthy relationship” in its grim final convulsions.
“It had become a very unhealthy relationship to be honest, the captain and I,” Root admitted on Sunday after his turns. “It really started to take a really bad toll on my own personal health. I couldn’t leave it at the ground anymore, it was coming home. It wasn’t fair to my family, to people close to me, and it wasn’t fair to me. not fair to myself.
There was little in Root’s batting form in the final months of his captaincy taking the mental toll the role takes – quite the contrary. He amassed an England record of 1,708 runs at 61.00 in 2021, just 80 runs below Mohammad Yousuf’s record, and although he endured a dip in form towards the end of the Ashes, back-to-back hundreds are in Antigua and Barbados seemed to have shown its determination earlier this year to remain in the lead from the front.
Privately, however, Root acknowledged that he felt the pressure to keep an underperforming team afloat, and as he took a break from cricket at the end of the Caribbean tour, he announced it was time to step down.
“I tried as much as I could, of course, but I guess I wasn’t aware of how much it affected me,” he admitted. “I just had to make the decision and I knew it was the right thing to do. I felt like a big weight had been lifted and I felt a lot better right away.
“As difficult as it was, it was clearly a huge privilege and something I am extremely proud of, but it is time for a new phase in my career. And it is one that I am very much looking forward to. friends is now bringing this team forward and starting in a way that he has.”
Stokes himself played a big part in securing victory on his first appearance as official captain, scoring a promising but crucial 54 to break the chase of 277 runs on the third afternoon. But once he fell to Kyle Jamieson with 118 runs left, Root picked up his own pace to score his last 81 runs from 81 balls and help England home accompanied by Ben Foakes.
“This is a very nice feeling,” Root said in the wake of England’s victory. “It felt like a long time. But it’s one you want to feel over and over again. So again, having been through that this week, we want to make sure that when we go to Trent Bridge, we’re back at it.” the right side, and can feel it again.”
At the moment of the victory, Root stopped at the edge of the border, shook hands with the New Zealand players and support staff before taking a memorable walk of honor through the pavilion, where he was cheered by the members and greeted by a line- of his teammates, led by Stokes, with Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad and James Anderson close behind.
“It meant an enormous amount to me,” he said, “not just personally, but when you walk through the locker room or the Long Room and you give the rest of the group a high-five, and you can feel the real joy and elation.” on their faces. That’s the one thing I’ve missed the most, I think, this past year and a bit. And one thing I’m really looking forward to seeing a lot more of, hopefully, this summer.”
Root admitted that the chance to repay Stokes for the many match-winning displays under his own captaincy had been an additional motivating factor in his performance.
“Now it’s my turn,” he said. “That’s a great motivator for me to move forward, with the amount of great things Ben has done for this team under my leadership. It’s a great opportunity for me in the next phase of my career to do that for him. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do some of the things he’s done, but I can definitely try. It’s nice to do that today.”
Stokes, however, dismissed his teammate’s modesty. “There’s never any doubt that Joe shows up on the big occasions,” he said. “He didn’t have to talk so nicely about me because he’s going to play the next game, no matter what.
“Everything he’s talked about with the captain, to see him walk out of there, lead the team to victory, see the emotion of pure joy and happiness to win a game for England in his first game after his resignation as captain was great.
“We are very close, we are not just colleagues together. As emotional as it was for him, it was fantastic for me to see a very good friend walk away after leading England to victory. It was a great day .”
Andrew Miller is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket