Joe Root's unbeaten century was the highlight of a good opening day for England at Lord's against Sri Lanka. The young Yorkshireman will be key as Alastair Cook's side attempt to erase the memory of a torrid winter.
The 23-year-old claimed his third Test century—his second at Lord's—as England finished on 344-5 at the end of Thursday's play.
Root finished unbeaten on 102 with a revitalised Matt Prior also finishing not out on 76 as England took control after a stuttering start to the Test match.
Really, really well played Joe Root. A very well-deserved 100. Clearly means an awful lot. Superb.— AllOutCricket (@AllOutCricket) June 12, 2014
Having lost the toss, England were put into bat, and debutant Sam Robson and skipper Cook both fell cheaply.
Ian Bell steadied the ship with a fine 56 while Moeen Ali—also on debut—impressed with a confident knock of 48.
But it was Root's contribution that really gave his side the upper hand on the first day of the summer, and he will be the key man in a new era for English cricket.
With the debacle of the Ashes whitewash in the winter and the subsequent fallout—including the sacking of Kevin Pietersen—it is vital that England get off to a strong start with a win over Sri Lanka in this Test series.
Root and Prior are in a position to lead England to a daunting first innings total and they need to carry on the scoring at the start of the second day to put Peter Moores' side in prime position for the win.
A score of 400 is an absolute must, and it would signal a move in the right direction as England haven't posted such a total for quite some time, per the Daily Mail's Lee Clayton:
However, as cricket writer Ed Hawkins points out, Lord's offers England a great opportunity to finally get that particular monkey off their respective backs.
England have posted 400 or more 11 times in their last 19 first-innings at Lord's— Ed Hawkins (@cricketbetting) June 12, 2014
And if Root and Prior continue in the same vein as they did on Thursday, the aim should actually be somewhere in the region of 450, 500 and beyond.
Root looked busy at the crease from the off on Thursday. He is a player of significant talent and he showed that at Lord's, scoring seven fours and keeping the run rate ticking over nicely.
The winter tour of Australia under Andy Flower was often dogged by slow scoring and an inability to keep the scoreboard moving. Thursday's 344 off 89 overs was a satisfyingly high score for one day's Test cricket.
For this kind of performance to be maintained as England head forward, Root's performances will be essential.
Though still a very young man, he is now one of the more senior batsmen in the England lineup having played in 15 Tests, per ESPNcricinfo.
He showed bursts of class in last summer's victorious Ashes series, but other than his monster 180 at Lord's, his contributions were not breathtaking.
Along with the rest, he was poor in Australia, but he now has a chance to really stamp his authority on this England side as they head into a new era.
Root has started the summer in the best possible fashion, and for the sake of the England team, he needs to keep it up.
For starters, he can guide England to a big total at Lord's and that should give him huge confidence going forward into the rest of the summer.
While there is going to be an experimental nature to England's team selections in the near future, a reliable core is needed.
Root is part of that core and he is the youngest member of it. That is a big responsibility, but one he looks like he can handle. He was calm at the crease at Lord's, a valuable commodity for a Test batsman.
In his second summer as part of the England Test side, Root can lead the charge in this new era. He certainly has the talent. He must now prove to have the temperament and the consistency.
If he does prove that, he is sure to be a major part of the England set-up for a long time to come. He may even come to define it.