Joe Root's 100 at Lord's: Right Man in Right Place to Start England's New Era

Freddie WildeContributor IJune 12, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 12: Joe Root of England celebrates reaching his century during day one of the 1st Investec Test match between England and Sri Lanka at Lord's Cricket Ground on June 12, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Harry Engels/Getty Images)
Harry Engels/Getty Images

You've probably read it in quite a few articles, seen it on the TV, heard it on the radi, or laughed at a couple of jokes on Twitter, but Joe Root looks very young.

It is known. Peering out from between the grill of his seemingly oversized helmet, he is innocent, boyish, angelic even.

Just 12 months ago, having made a debut of promise and potential in India before ending a string of five tough Tests against New Zealand with a superb century, Root was the golden boy of English cricket; an England captain in the making; his ascension to open the batting couldn't come soon enough, he was The Future.

And yet 12 months on, as the many comings of England's New Era—post-Andy Flower, in ODIs, in T20s, at home and then finally in Tests—have materialised, the promise borne by Root's immensely encouraging beginnings have been corrupted to the point of his very being becoming almost forgotten.

As the pre-Test selection debates have rumbled on, Root is the unfortunate player—there always seems to be one—whom people just seem to forget about when picking their sides before begrudgingly squeezing him in. It's not necessarily that he's not been deserving of selection, but rather he's become something of a background noise.

There were, of course, many high-profile casualties during England's winter of discontent, but there were perhaps none, not even Pietersen's, more poignant or indeed emblematic of England's decline than that of young Joe Root's innocence. His youthful naivety polluted, his talent forgotten,

The Age of Flower was coming to an end, but no one foresaw an end so pervasive as one that contaminated the future, too.

As England returned to Lord's on Thursday for the first time since they brutalised Australia by 348 runs what seems like an eternity ago, the focus was not on Joe Root.

No, eyes were trained elsewhere; to Sam Robson, a man who like Root 12 months previously was to open the batting with hopes of a special career ahead of him; to Moeen Ali, his elegance and his doosra; to Chris Jordan, his pace and fire; and more broadly to England's much-vaunted New Era led by Peter Moores and Alastair Cook.

Root, batting at No. 5 in the order—one place below Ian Bell, who himself was thought to be one place too low below Gary Ballance—was neither here nor there as he walked out to bat with England precariously placed at 74-3.

Root was neither Old Glories nor Recent Failures nor New Era. As he crouched into his stance, a new and defining chapter began in Root's career.

Six hours, 183 balls and 100 of his own runs later, the boyish future tore off his helmet, having played an innings of the battling present to reveal the face of a roaring man.

He chronicled and told the stories of a long and painful winter as he bellowed in jubilation. For as much as Root was supported today by Ali—the future who scored 48—and Matt Prior—the soon-to-be past who scored 76 not out—today was all about the boy who became a man, about the future who made the present his own.

England's new era needs needs new heroes—today they found one.