Root result trumps process
"Check the scorebook." That's what they say. Grizzled old cricket watchers who see the game through life's bitter disappointment. They've heard every story, every excuse, every couldabeen tale. It doesn't matter. The scorebook matters.
Modern cricketers and coaches tell us it is about the process. We shouldn't judge on results. We shouldn't focus on what happened at the end, but how they went about it.
In that sacred scorebook, Joe Root made 134. But his processes were all over the place.
First ball he found the smallest amount of bat to stop a ball that was hooping back in at him better than any David Warner punch. Second ball he was dropped from an outside edge that Brad Haddin simply didn't understand. And even third ball he was close enough that there was a stifled appeal, but Root made it through that over.
But then, part of his process was also attacking Australia. He used flawless off-drives, sensuous cover-drives and forced off the backfoot whenever there was a chance. Sometimes, he cut hard, sometimes up and over, sometimes it was a guide, sometimes it was a crack. When he reached his 40s, his balls faced had still not caught his runs.
They were the glorious processes. It was counterattack, it was new England, it dragged England away from a bad day.
The sort of innings Kevin Pietersen would have played. Hope like hell you end up the day on the back of papers for the right reasons. Cover yourself in glory if you do well. Or cover yourself in something far worse if you fail.
Root's innings was a constant battle between his best and worst. Every great shot would be followed by luck or confusion. Inside edges went between midwicket to the finest of fine legs. Pull shots off balls that advised him via their length not to pull them. Play and misses from balls too close to him, too far, coming in, going out. And so many half and three quarter shouts.
Even his 50 was part of this. The result was two runs, he raised his bat, the crowd said his name. But the process was a leading edge through cover that floated past the field, rather than to it.
After another inside edge near-calamity, Root moved across to sweep Lyon, Lyon was sure he was out LBW. The first replays of the review seemed to agree with him. But hawkeye and its mystical digital eye believed the ball pitched outside legstump. Lyon stopped believing in science as it remained not out.
At one stage Root was almost caught/run out/stumped (Ian Bell probably would have found a way to be out all three ways), when he flicked off his pad, and it ricocheted off short leg's shin pads. That was soon followed by another huge shout, followed by huge disappointment for Lyon when he thought he had an inside edge, that he thought Steve Smith should catch, that turned out to be neither hit nor caught.
Yet, Root still had the ability, calm, and timing to stroke a ball through covers. To cut, guide and flick. At one stage he steered a ball through point so perfectly it was like he'd pre-mapped it with a protractor.
When Mitchell Starc finally took Root's wicket, he didn't do a jig, or even put his finger to his lips, he just exhaled a very deep breath.
Root was in control for three-quarters of the balls he faced, the tenth-lowest control in a Test hundred since 2009. Twenty different times Australia thought they had him, or a chance of him, or they hope that he would soon be gone. He kept his wicket by millimetres. But does that make it better, or worse? Was he lucky or brave? Was this an epic rearguard or a failure to fail. Was it a victory for positive intent, or just one of those days?
Root's day in gif form would look like this: Australia throw their hands up, cover turns to pick up the ball from the boundary, the crowd yelling "ROOOOOOOT", bowlers shaking their heads, the ball scooting through Australia's haunted vacant point region, Australia dropping their heads, Root slapping another boundary and ultimately Root celebrating a hard earned, well received, incredibly important very lucky hundred while Warner didn't clap him.
Root played new England cricket. Root played and missed. Root made a hundred. England survived the day. Today, the result beat the process.
Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber