Root steps down: South African success, an Indian summer and Ashes thrashings – the highs and lows of his captaincy

By Sports Desk April 15, 2022

There was a sense of inevitability about the impending resignation of England Test captain Joe Root.

Yorkshireman Root repeatedly reiterated his commitment to leading his country in the face of adversity, echoing his desire to continue after a 4-0 hammering in Australia and 1-0 series loss to West Indies.

The latter defeat made it five Test series without a win for England under Root, who has managed just one victory in his past 17 international red-ball outings as skipper.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the duo with 1,177 Test dismissals between them, were also omitted for the tour to the Caribbean as a new-look England side struggled as many of their predecessors had in recent years.

The ECB are now without a managing director, head coach, selector or Test captain ahead of a series against New Zealand, starting in June, with Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler among the favourite skipper replacements.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the highs and lows of Root's stewardship, which came to an end on Friday.

Perfect Proteas start – 2017

Root could not have dreamt of a better start to international captaincy following his appointment as skipper, replacing Alastair Cook – England's leading run-scorer in Test cricket (12,472).

England ran out comfortable victors against South Africa in the first Test at Lord's in July 2017 under Root, who crafted a magnificent 190.

The hosts slipped to defeat in the following meeting with the Proteas, with Root conceding his honeymoon period was already over, but responded to claim a 3-1 series defeat over Faf du Plessis' tourists.

Root accumulated 461 runs in the series, 131 more than his nearest challenger and Yorkshire colleague Jonny Bairstow, as he averaged an impressive 57.6.

 

Joy in the Indian summer – 2018

As Root would quickly learn, any hope of success rapidly diminished when his side were to travel Down Under, with a 4-0 thrashing by Australia and a series loss to New Zealand to follow.

However, England responded in remarkable fashion against the world's number one ranked side India as they recorded a 4-1 victory and celebrated a series of milestones.

Root fell slightly short of his own standards with the bat, finishing fourth with 319 runs behind his predecessor Cook (327), Buttler (349) and visiting captain Virat Kohli (593).

Cook capped a fine international career with a ton in his final appearance at The Oval, while Anderson moved past Australian Glenn McGrath to fourth in the all-time Test dismissals list.

Despite the retirement of Cook, things were starting to look brighter for Root and Co.

Overseas success at last – 2018

Root's record overseas as captain made for poor reading before the tour to Sri Lanka, having lost five of seven Tests while drawing the other two.

But the left-field selection of spin specialist Keaton Jennings and wicketkeeper Ben Foakes proved fruitful as both recorded hundreds in the first Test win over the hosts.

Root joined in on the act with a ton in the series-clinching second meeting, before becoming the first Englishman in 55 years to secure a whitewash abroad in a series of three matches or more.

"We are not a one-trick pony in our own conditions anymore," Root said as he hailed his tourists, who were again defeated in the Caribbean on the following tour.

South Africa saviour after Ashes failure – 2019-20

The pressure was mounting on Root after losses to West Indies and failure to regain the Ashes at home.

Silverwood was appointed as the successor to Trevor Bayliss and, despite a flu bug running through the England side that lost the first Test in Centurion, the visitors battled to a series 3-1 victory.

Stokes and Bairstow led the way for the tourists, who lost Anderson to injury in the second outing and utilised newcomers Ollie Pope, Dom Bess and Mark Wood.

There was also no three-figure score for Root, but that did not matter to him as he concluded "the sky's the limit" for his youthful and promising side.

 

Stokes-less England demolished in India – 2021

COVID-19 accounted for much of cricket in 2020, when England ran out 2-1 victors against West Indies and 1-0 winners against Pakistan after Root oversaw the series win in South Africa at the start of the year.

But 2021 signalled the start of the downfall of Root, who followed up another encouraging series victory against Sri Lanka with series losses to India and then New Zealand, without Stokes, who took an indefinite break from cricket to prioritise his mental wellbeing and recovery from injury.

India then visited for a five-Test series, which they led 2-1 before a coronavirus-enforced cancellation of the final meeting as Jasprit Bumrah headed Kohli's bowling attack that tore through England.

While Root cited "small margins" as the difference in a topsy-turvy series, there was nothing competitive about Root's side when they headed Down Under again.

Ashes disappointment – 2021-22

Australia have proved a step too far for many an England captain, and Root was no different as his team collapsed in abject fashion to highlight the deficiencies of the Test side and county set-up.

Pat Cummins' rampant hosts, aided by some Scott Boland brilliance, secured the Ashes series within 12 days of cricket – longer than England were required to quarantine on their arrival Down Under.

The visitors failed to pass 300 even once, and during the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, England were bowled out for 68 in their second innings.

The tourists also collapsed on the third day of the final Test in Hobart when they lost 10 second-innings wickets for just 56 runs, with only a fourth Test draw in Sydney preventing a 5-0 whitewash.

Nevertheless, Root's batting did not falter despite captaincy pressure. His 1,708 runs in Test cricket last year were the most ever by an England player – and third-most by any player in history.

 

Caribbean conclusion – 2022

Head coach Silverwood was dismissed in the wake of the Ashes thrashing, with Paul Collingwood appointed as interim coach to work with Root.

Bold calls followed as the evergreen Broad and Anderson were left out, with Saqib Mahmood, Matthew Fisher, Craig Overton, Chris Woakes and Wood the seamers to feature in the Caribbean.

Credible stalemates across the first two Tests slightly raised the incredibly low levels of optimism surrounding the Test side, but a chastening 10-wicket loss in Grenada confirmed another series defeat.

That left Root with just one win in his past 17 Tests, and he decided to call an end to his captaincy on Friday, though he outlined his intentions to carry on playing international cricket for England.

He ends with the most wins as an England Test captain (27) but also the most defeats (26).

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