30/05/2024

It was a rough ending to 2021 for Joe Root after one of the most prolific years in test history from the English captain. (Photo: Wisden Cricket/Twitter)

Whilst it's been a nearly forgettable year for the English cricket team, there was one shining light: their captain, Joe Root.

Whilst it’s been a nearly forgettable year for the English cricket team, there was one shining light amongst it all. And that was captain Joe Root.

It was a year like no other from one of England’s greatest ever batters as both a leader and player. The Inner Sanctum takes a look the year that was and what the future could hold for him.

Touring the subcontinent

Starting out in the southwest Sri Lankan city of Galle, Root’s 2021 couldn’t have gotten off to a better start. In the first innings against Sri Lanka he scored 228 runs (including 18 fours and a six), guiding his team to 421.

He was the leading run scorer for that series as England kickstarted its 2021 in perfect fashion, winning 2-0. The English then took the short trip up to face the red hot Indian team.

First up in Chennai, Root again hit a double hundred in his first innings of the series. Scoring 218 runs and being well supported by Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley, he picked up the Man of the Match as England won by 227 runs.

Much like England for the rest of the series though, he did have his struggles after that innings. However, he still scored 368 runs at an average of 46 and was the side’s leading run scorer again as England lost the series 3-1.

Back on home soil

Nearly three months after that loss to India, England then faced a New Zealand side preparing for the World Test Championship final against India. It was a slightly quieter series against the Black Caps, scoring only 97 runs in four innings as England lost its second series of 2021.

It was the second series against India in the year where he showed why he’s one of the best in the world. In the first Test at Trent Bridge he scored 64 in the first and 109 in the second innings in the only draw of the series.

At the next Test at the Home of Cricket he etched himself into the wall at Lord’s yet again. He stayed not out on 180 in the first innings, scoring nearly half of his side’s runs as England went down by 151 runs.

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Root continued his hot streak in the next Test at Headingley, scoring the only hundred of the match as England defeated India for the second time in 2021.

He had a rather disappointing final Test of the English summer, scoring only 36 and 21 at The Oval in England’s fifth loss of 2021 against India.

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Failure to convert Down Under

Root came back to Australia for a third series and his second as captain. It was a horrifying start to the Ashes for both him and England, going out for a duck as it was bowled out for 147.

The captain showed resilience the next two innings at the Gabba and Adelaide Oval, scoring 89 in the second innings in Brisbane and 62 in the first innings at Adelaide. However, after a knock in a not-so-comfortable area, his productivity started to slightly falter.

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Whilst he picked up 50 runs in the first innings on Boxing Day, he only scored an extra 52 runs as England conceded the Ashes yet again to Australia.

In total for 2021 he scored 1708 runs, the third most in a calendar year behind Sir Vivian Richards (by two runs) and Mohammad Yousuf.

The future for Root

There’s still two Tests left this Ashes series, but knowing they can’t retain will be a hard pill to swallow for Root. It’ll also be yet another big year for him and England.

Following the end of this series the English will travel to the Caribbean to take on the West Indies. In their home summer there’ll be seven Test matches against India in a one-off, New Zealand yet again, and South Africa.

One big question mark that does hang over his head is should he still be England’s captain? Yes he has the most wins as the English Test captain, but this last year has been his worst as captain for results.

Root’s record as captain since the series in India is 2-9, losing all four series they’ve played along the way. He’s been a tremendous servant as captain, but now he might have to give up the captaincy after four years.

Despite the rough year for every English fan, they can still cling on to the hope knowing that their captain is still one of the best batters in the world.

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