Root satisfies Headingley craving
On a day when the complexities of British Indians' cricketing allegiances had been much to the fore, Headingley offered a scene of old-time simplicity. For once, Indian support was in a minority. In front of an expectant crowd, Joe Root assembled the first ODI hundred ever made by a Yorkshire batsman at Headingley. Loyalties do not run much deeper than that.
Level the charge of parochialism if you must, but that was the statistic that mattered most of those who were present to bear witness. Forty-one years have passed since Headingley staged its first ODI between England and the West Indies, a close-fought, suitably suspicious affair with scores under 200. Finally in a limited-overs game a Yorkshire crowd was able to hail one of its own.
It was an achievement denied to Geoffrey Boycott, who just after Root was dismissed, popped into the media box to check if his favourite Green Tea was sorted, or Michael Vaughan, resplendent in turned-up Ted Baker cuffs, Root's champion from the outset, the two of them so responsible for keeping cricket interest high in the south of the county. Two men, too, who dare to speak truths to those in charge: truths that connect with the majority of the England cricketing public, that Alastair Cook is not the best choice to lead England into a World Cup challenge.
There are no such doubts about Root. When a Yorkshire crowd applauds a Yorkshire hundred, or a five-wicket haul, it is as if every coach, every tea lady, every person who has washed the clothes left crumpled in a kit bag, or entered a raffle, or boasted loudly in the pub, claims a share of it. When Root is applauded, he is hailed as One Of Us. Chests expand, secret tears are brushed away. It is a deep connection, and it is how it should be.
Lucky is the man content in his obsession. MS Dhoni looks like a street fighter at the crease; Jos Buttler has a bashful originality. Root exudes happiness. When he brought up his hundred with a fulsome slog-swept six off Ravindra Jadeja, and the PA played Pharrell Williams' "Happy", for once the summer's unavoidable, tediously upbeat song sounded wholly appropriate.
The fact that Root also provided England's first hundred of the series was merely an afterthought. "Aye, that as well," would be the reaction of some Yorkshire diehards. But, in England terms, this was a hundred to soothe festering wounds, a hundred to prevent an India clean sweep.
There will be claims that it lifts the pressures from Cook, and it probably will, but on a Headingley surface fit for kings, Cook's innings stalled on 46, his departure to a top-edged sweep finishing a sequence which brought only 23 runs from his last 40 balls. He had got a flyer with two driven boundaries in Bhuvneshwar Kumar's first over. Twice he edged safely through the slips. We wondered if it was his day. But it was the young adventurer, Root, who relished the opportunity.
When God created Joe Root, he saw fit to give him stooping shoulders. He will need them. When this slender figure gazes out over the cricketing fields of England, and nowhere more so than his beloved Yorkshire, it is as if he has been designed to bear the weight of expectation. Most pressingly, he is charged over the next week with completing the delivery of the finest Yorkshire dream sequence since Game of Thrones gave everybody in Winterfell Yorkshire accents. The difference is that nobody in Yorkshire cricket fears that winter is coming. Quite the opposite.
Virtually everybody who applauded this perkiest of hundreds is awaiting formal confirmation that next week, only two days after England's international season is completed by a NatWest T20 at Edgbaston, Root will take on the role of emergency captain against Nottinghamshire, a match that could bring Yorkshire their first Championship win since 2001.
It is inconceivable that England will deny Yorkshire access to Root - and Gary Ballance, omitted for this game - in what is one of the most keenly-awaited Championship matches for years. The Yorkshire captain, Andrew Gale, has been suspended for two matches after a burst of temper against Ashwell Price for persistent timewasting and sledging in the Roses match. The failure of umpires to manage the game in a disciplined fashion is a burning topic in these parts, and so it should be.
England's 294 for 6 did not bring complacency. Eight years ago on this ground, England made 321 for 7 but Sri Lanka waltzed past it with more than 12 overs to spare. "The day that Fred died," somebody remarked. It was perhaps a blessing that he did not live to see it because he would have died chuntering.
For the Yorkshire Greats, a surname is often superfluous. One day, Root might simply be known as Joe. It is not quite that time yet. But he is heading that way. Skippering Yorkshire to the Championship would get him a little bit closer.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo