Joe Root joins England’s all-time greats after stunning win in India - Chris Waters

THIS was Joe Root’s finest hour.

It is one thing to score 228 and 186 in successive Tests in Sri Lanka.

It is quite another to go to India, to face arguably the world’s best team in their own backyard, fresh from a famous victory in Australia, and to mark your 100th Test appearance with a match-winning innings of 218.

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As a batsman, captain and ambassador for cricket, Root’s star has never shone brighter.

Joe Root (captain) of England during day four of the first test match between India and England held at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai (Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI)

This was a week from his boyhood dreams.

First, after all the emotional build-up concerning his 100th cap, enough to unsettle the most composed of characters, Root won the toss – a key advantage in conditions where the pitch deteriorates on days four and five.

Then he batted on a different plane to everyone else, his double century ensuring a mammoth first innings total of 578, England’s second-highest in India behind their 652-7 declared at the same ground in 1985.

In the field, Root captained and cajoled his men with his customary calm authority, India falling for 337 in reply as his Yorkshire team-mate Dom Bess led the way with 4-76, including the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane, spectacularly caught by Root one-handed diving to his left at cover.

James Anderson of England celebrates the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane of India during day five of the first test match between India and England (Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI)

Root followed up with the top score of 40 in the England second innings as their total of 178 left India a world record 420 to win.

Root’s bowling and fielding changes were once more intuitive as India never threatened the fiendish target, Jack Leach recovering from a difficult first innings to take 4-76 and the timeless James Anderson – 39 this coming July– dramatically ripping out the heart of India’s batting with superb reverse-swinging deliveries that bowled Shubman Gill and Rahane in the space of four balls.

Anderson also had Rishabh Pant caught at short cover by Root – who else? – as Virat Kohli’s fine 72 was fashioned in vain.

Whereas this was England’s sixth successive Test away win under Root, it was Kohli’s fourth successive defeat as India captain, not to mention only India’s second defeat in 36 home Tests, which emphasised the magnitude of England’s triumph.

Joe Root of England celebrates after scoring a hundred during day one of the first test match between India and England (Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI via ECB)

As Kohli licks his wounds ahead of a second Test also in Chennai, starting on Saturday, Root strides on through the annals of greatness.

Another victory will give him the most by an England Test captain after this 227-run demolition saw him draw level on 26 with his friend and mentor Michael Vaughan.

Take a bow, incidentally, Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club, where both of these giants learned their trade.

In the meantime, Root has some rare figures to contemplate.

Joe Root - England's finest? (Picture: Pankaj Nangia/ Sportzpics for BCCI via ECB)

Having gone past the Test runs totals of Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Kevin Pietersen and David Gower during the Sri Lanka tour, Root went past Alec Stewart in this match to become England’s third-highest run-scorer behind Graham Gooch and Sir Alastair Cook.

It is a question of when, not if, Root overhauls Cook’s record to become the greatest run-scorer in England’s history.

Root’s average is also back where it belongs – up above 50. No-one else in England’s top-10 run-scoring list can make that boast.

As such, and given his excellence now over a prolonged period, Root deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as arguably the two greatest players not on the list, but just outside it as there was not sufficient Test cricket played in their day.

Their names are Sir Leonard Hutton and Wally Hammond, widely regarded by those who do not believe that cricket only started with the modern era as perhaps the two finest players that England have had prior to it, along with Sir Jack Hobbs and, even further back into the mists, WG Grace.

All will have their favourites, of course, and comparisons across eras are fraught with peril, but it is a proper tribute to Root to put him in the highest company.

None would have admired him more than Sir Len, with whom he is not entirely dissimilar in terms of his softly-spoken demeanour – masking, of course, great inner strength.

To play 100 Tests and average over 50, and to also average over 50 in 149 one-day internationals, makes Root the complete player as we recognise it today, even if he has not played the number of T20s his talents merit.

Perhaps, however, that is no bad thing.

For in Test cricket, the arena in which the true greats are judged, Joe Root is as good as it gets.

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