Former England Test captain Joe Root recently became only the second batter from his country to cross the 10,000-run landmark in the game’s longer format. He was the man of the match for his unbeaten 115 in the Lord’s Test against New Zealand as England chased down a target of 277 with five wickets in hand. Root’s ton was his 26th ton in his 118th Test match. He now has 10015 runs in Test matches at an average of 49.57. Apart from 26 centuries, he also has 53 half-centuries to his name. While there may be question marks over his legacy as a captain, he is undoubtedly one of the best Test batters. But is he the greatest from England? Here’s an analysis.
Root, Cook, Gooch and KP: England’s batting greats
If we look at England’s Test batters over the years, Root, Alastair Cook, Graham Gooch, and Kevin Pietersen stand out as their top performers with the willow in the game’s traditional format. On the other hand, Geoffrey Boycott was too defensive, David Gower wasn’t consistent enough, and Alec Stewart wasn’t dynamic with his progress among other contenders. Former captain Cook is currently the leading run-getter for England with 12472 runs from 161 matches (33 hundreds). Gooch ended his career with 8900 runs in 118 Tests (20 hundreds), while KP smashed 8181 runs in 104 matches (23 tons).
How they fared in winning causes
Almost half of Root’s Test runs have come in winning causes. He has scored 5036 runs in 48 Tests that England have won, averaging 65.40 in comparison to his overall average of 49.57. Eighteen of his 26 tons have come in winning causes. 11 of these tons have been in England, three in Sri Lanka, two in West Indies, and one each in India and South Africa.
Cook has a similar record to Root in winning Tests. He has scored 5689 runs in 67 Tests in winning causes. He averages 54.70 in comparison to his overall average of 45.35. Seventeen of his 33 tons have come in matches that England have won. While 10 of his tons have come at home, two each have been scored in Australia and India and one in South Africa.
Pietersen, too has an excellent record in winning Tests for England. In 42 matches, he has scored 3655 runs at an average of 58.01 in comparison to his overall average of 47.28. Eleven of his 23 tons have come in matches that England have won. Seven of them have been scored in England and one each in Australia, India, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka.
Finally, Gooch scored 2950 runs in 32 Tests that England won at an average of 56.73. His overall Test average was 42.58. Nine of his 20 hundreds came in winning causes, eight in England and one in New Zealand.
Home vs away record
The greatness of a Test batter can be best gauged by how well he stands up in alien conditions. Root has an average of 45.93 in away Tests, with 11 hundreds. He has an average of over 50 in India, South Africa, and the West Indies and more than 65 in Sri Lanka. However, he has a poor Test record in Australia, where he averages 35.68 without a hundred.
Cook’s home and away average is almost similar. He has an average of 45.64 in away Tests with 17 hundreds. Unlike Root, Cook has five Test tons in Australia, where he averages 48.54. He also has five tons in India at an average of over 50. These are significant numbers.
Pietersen averaged 44.16 in 48 away Tests with eight hundreds. He has two hundreds each in Australia and India, two of the toughest countries to score runs. Gooch had a below-par average of 36.82 in away Tests. He did score two hundreds against a peak West Indies side. However, He managed only one hundred in Australia apart from one each in India and New Zealand.
Conclusion: Root has an underwhelming record in Australia, while Cook has superb numbers in Australia and India. Thus, as of now, Cook holds the unofficial title of England’s greatest Test batter. Root has time to correct the anomaly.