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Root offers reminder of Cook debut

Posted in England in India 2012-13

Joe Root

Joe Root evoked memories of Alastair Cook's debut with a composed 73 in Nagpur

When England’s squad for the Test series in India was announced earlier this year, Joe Root dusted himself down following a round of golf and spoke to ecb.co.uk about his inclusion.

At the time, I remember being impressed with the young Yorkshireman; for someone who had just earned a Test call-up for the first time, he was remarkably calm, as if it was merely the next step on a road to stardom.

He came across as confident, yet not cocky, and spoke of emulating his idol Michael Vaughan, whom was cited as a great influence. The comparisons between Root and Vaughan in future seem inevitable; they did, after all, come through the same Sheffield Collegiate club side.

After watching Root’s debut innings of 73 over the last day and a half in Nagpur, however, the efforts of a certain other England skipper have come to mind - namely the present one!

It was in the same city six years ago that a fresh-faced 21-year-old named Alastair Cook announced himself on the international stage in breathtaking fashion.

I will always remember his first scoring shot. I had risen in the early hours of the morning to listen to Test Match Special while on holiday in a part of Spain I cannot remember the name of - yes, I was that sad as a teenager.

I knew Cook had been called up, flown over from an A tour of the West Indies at short notice as it happened, and was aware he had struck a double-century for Essex against Australia the previous summer. I listened on as Jonathan Agnew described a picture-perfect pull off another debutant, Sreesanth, in the second over.

While I knew a little about Cook, I could have not predicted that he would end 2012 as England’s most prolific Test centurion. The first of his hundreds came in that first encounter, when 104 not out followed a first-innings 60.

Returning to Nagpur, albeit at a different ground, Cook would have been hoping to continue his astounding recent form; the captain has struck centuries in each of the three opening Tests and his first five as skipper - the latter a feat no other player has previously achieved.

In this game his first innings ended on one thanks to a poor umpiring decision, yet England were still able to grind out a seemingly healthy total of 330 thanks largely to Root’s composed contribution.

Just like Cook, his first innings came in Nagpur at the age of 21, although Root was also deployed in an unfamiliar role, the opening batsman coming in at six. How many times do you think he has been forced to start innings against spin at Headingley Carnegie?

Yet perhaps the most striking similarity between the two was shown in the new man’s ice-cool temperament under pressure.

England were in a precarious position at 119 for four when Root entered the fray and soon saw Kevin Pietersen depart for 73. What followed from the unexpected selection was a quite exceptional display mixing solid defence, excellent strike rotation and the odd piece of invention.

For 229 deliveries, he defied India on a surface Pietersen described as “the toughest wicket I’ve played Test cricket on”.

Pietersen would doubtless have been impressed with Root, as would a justified captain Cook. Somewhere I imagine Root’s idol, Vaughan, was extremely proud.

“I definitely want to emulate him,” Root told ecb.co.uk on that day in September. It would take a brave man to bet against England's latest cap doing just that following his outstanding bow.

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