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Joe Root takes chance 'to pay a bit back' to new England captain Ben Stokes

Lord's match-winner reflects on how Test captaincy had started to have "unhealthy effect on the rest of my life"

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Joe Root won the Player-of-the-Match award for his unbeaten 115  •  Getty Images

Joe Root won the Player-of-the-Match award for his unbeaten 115  •  Getty Images

Joe Root said he had been spurred on by the opportunity to "pay a bit back" to Ben Stokes after his innings of 115 not out guided England to a five-wicket win against New Zealand at Lord's in their first Test match since his resignation as captain.
Stokes described Root as "Mr Dependent" in the post-match presentation after his first fourth-innings hundred made him the second Englishman to pass 10,000 Test runs and Root said that after Stokes had single-handedly dragged England to several wins during his own tenure as captain, he had been determined to repay the favour.
"For us to start like this under Ben's leadership, with Brendon [McCullum] in charge as well, it's a really exciting time," Root told Sky Sports. "The amount of times that he won Test matches for me when I was in charge, it's a great opportunity for me to pay a bit back to him. I'll never be Ben Stokes and I'll never be able to do the things that he's done, but hopefully I can do it my own way.
"It was nice to do it for him today and for the rest of the group. It's a great motivator. I love batting. I want to just keep trying to bat for as long as I can and score as many runs as I can and help us win as many Test matches as I can. It was a great feeling today."
Root has kept a low profile since stepping down from the captaincy in mid-April and was visibly emotional on Sunday, both upon reaching three figures and when walking off to a standing ovation after sealing a five-wicket win with a pull through midwicket. He said that he had struggled to separate the role from his personal life and that while the decision to resign had been difficult, he had "thrown everything at it".
"I'd thrown every bit of myself into it and it was starting to take an unhealthy effect on the rest of my life as well," he said. "I couldn't leave it in the car or at the cricket ground; it was coming home. It's not fair on myself and it wasn't fair on my family.
"It's obviously been really tough. A lot of people will talk about my personal performances over the last year or so, runs-wise, but it's never enjoyable when you're losing Test matches and you'd give all those runs up to win.
"I want to enjoy my cricket and I want to enjoy playing. It's a role that needs someone who is going to give it so much energy and you can see that with Ben. I'm really excited for this team and for him that he's in that position."
Root's own innings started slowly as he looked to lead a recovery from 69 for 4 in pursuit of 277 and when Stokes was dismissed by Kyle Jamieson on the third evening, gloving a bouncer behind while attempting an uppercut, Root had made 34 off 89 balls; from that point on, he made 81 off 81 balls.
He highlighted the ball change at the start of the 56th over - five overs after Stokes had been dismissed - as a turning point in the game, with the replacement ball hardly deviating off the straight. Ajaz Patel had been hit out of the attack by Stokes, who slog-swept him for three sixes over midwicket, while Colin de Grandhomme's injury meant that Williamson had no choice but to give his main three seamers a heavy workload.
"There was a specific moment in the game when it really turned for us," Root said. "They obviously changed the ball twice and the second time they changed that ball, it became a little bit harder and it didn't swing as much as the one they had previously, and that made it so much easier.
"It was quite a slow wicket, quite hard to time the ball on. That made life a lot easier for someone like myself who can't bully the ball like someone like Ben might be able to. They ended up putting a few sweepers out for me which I always quite enjoy, because you can get so many twos and you can rotate the strike and feel like the board is always moving and never feel stuck at one end.
"It made a real difference. It got me going and meant that we could be really smart with our running between the wickets and really put pressure on that way and slowly creep up. I thought Ben was very smart in the way that he played it as well: he saw that match-up with the left-arm spinner and you talk about how T20 cricket can come into this [format] - it was a really important over.
"With Colin going off injured it meant that they were going to have to keep bringing their seamers back, keep them tired, and it was almost like once I was in and I felt quite comfortable, trying to get ahead of it last night while there were overs in their legs was the smart play. To try and get the score as far down as possible last night was a really important factor in what we were trying to do."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98