“DELIGHTED for Joe, disappointed for Jonny”.
That was Martyn Moxon’s succinct reaction yesterday after England handed Joe Root his Test debut in preference to picking his Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow.
Moxon, who has played a big role in both players’ development in his capacity as Yorkshire’s director of cricket, admitted it was “a pleasant surprise” to switch on the television to discover that Root had been chosen for the fourth and final Test against India in Nagpur.
At the same time, he expressed sympathy for Bairstow that he had once more been overlooked – although he reiterated his view that both Yorkshire players will enjoy long and successful international careers.
Whereas Bairstow showcased his talent by taking 95 and 54 off the best bowling attack in the world in the final Test of last summer against South Africa at Lord’s, Root highlighted his ability with an unbeaten 31 to help England recover from 139-5 to 199-5 – their lowest first day total for 12 years on a pitch star batsman Kevin Pietersen described as the toughest for run-scoring he has encountered.
Displaying a solid technique and a maturity beyond his 21 years, Root repelled the best the Indians could throw at him on a slow, sluggish surface after being selected to bat at No 6 ahead of Bairstow, previous incumbent Samit Patel and Middlesex batsman Eoin Morgan.
Much talk prior to the series had centred on whether Root or Somerset’s Nick Compton would get the nod to partner Alastair Cook at the top of the order following the retirement of former captain Andrew Strauss, but although Compton won that battle, one of Root’s great attributes is his versatility and ability to slot into any position.
Moxon was delighted with the tenacity and technique displayed by the youngster, who faced 110 balls and shared an unbroken stand of 60 with Matt Prior (34).
“I thought Joe played terrifically well on his debut,” said Moxon.
“It’s a very slow and low pitch, so he had to display a lot of concentration and patience.
“He looked really composed in everything he did and was very positive when the opportunity arose.
“I hadn’t picked up any indication he was in line to play, so it was a pleasant surprise when I turned on the telly in the morning.”
Root was recommended for his debut by Lions batting coach Graham Thorpe, who watched him hit 166 for the England Performance Programme in Mumbai a fortnight ago.
That innings appears to have been the clincher for the Sheffield-born batsman, who scored 738 County Championship runs last summer at 43.
“England clearly think Joe is the man in form because he got that big hundred in the Lions match,” said Moxon.
“They’ve made some interesting selections in the last few Tests and have been pretty bold, in all honesty.
“This is another one of those bold choices because it would have been easy to keep Patel in because he’s done okay.
“He’s had a couple of poor decisions and it would have been easy to stick with him, but obviously Joe’s impressed the England management.”
The only downside for Yorkshire cricket followers was the omission of Bairstow, who can count himself highly unfortunate.
Bairstow got a rough decision in his only Test innings on the tour, when he fell for nine at Mumbai to a controversial catch, while his performance against South Africa spoke for itself.
“Knowing Jonny he’ll be a little bit frustrated and disappointed he’s not played more this series,” said Moxon.
“But as long as he takes it the right way and uses the time to learn then it won’t do him any harm in the long run.
“He’s been a bit unlucky, I think. Obviously, with the success he had at Lord’s against South Africa, he had a good case for starting in the Test team.
“But Pietersen coming back into the side hampered his cause and they were initially looking at Patel to do a bowling role for them as well.”
England made a poor start yesterday after winning the toss.
Compton was caught behind with the total on three and Cook fell lbw with the score on 15 to a ball that hit him outside the line of off stump, both openers falling to pace man Ishant Sharma.
Pietersen and Trott added 86 for the third wicket before Trott (44) had a brainstorm and allowed a straight delivery from Ravindra Jadeja to hit his stumps.
England – who yesterday revealed that fast bowlers Stuart Broad and Steven Finn would return home early because of their respective injuries – fell to 119-4 when Ian Bell played another poor stroke, chipping the leg-spinner Piyush Chawla to short extra-cover with just two to his name.
Pietersen played patiently for 73, his innings ending when he clipped a length ball from Jadeja to mid-wicket. But Root and Prior steadied the ship as England chase the victory or draw that would clinch the series.