Joe Root has revealed England captain Ben Stokes has inspired his record-breaking Test team to play “like rock stars”.
England went head to head with the Glastonbury festival in the entertainment stakes last weekend when they completed a series whitewash over New Zealand and have taken their status as cricket’s headline act to new heights over the last five days against India.
Set 378 to win at Edgbaston, more than any other England team has ever managed and the eighth highest chase in all Test history, Stokes’ side aced the challenge by a swaggering seven-wicket margin.
Root made an imperious 142 not out and Jonny Bairstow’s unbeaten 114 took his hit streak to four centuries in his last five innings, including a matching pair in Birmingham.
England’s ‘Boss’, head coach Brendon McCullum, was blasting out Bruce Springsteen’s anthemic ‘Glory Days’ as England arrived at the ground on the fifth morning needing another 119 runs, while Root went even further back in the rock’n’roll catalogue when he made his 28th Test ton.
After taking in the applause, Root raised his hand to the air and wiggled his little finger at the dressing room, making reference to a scene from the new Elvis Presley movie.
With four wins from four since the start of the summer, England are finally hitting all the right notes.
“Ben wanted us to be entertainers. He’s mentioned trying to be rock stars on the field,” said Root after his match-winning stand of 269 with fellow Yorkshireman Bairstow.
“It’s about trying to have fun and really relishing every opportunity you get to showcase what you’re about and put on a show for everyone. It’s like being a kid again, it’s great.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to feel or look like a rock star but for 10 seconds out there I might have done. That’s what the little pinkie celebration was about. Ben watched the Elvis film the other day and he’s been doing that all week. It was a little tribute to him.”
For the majority of a prolific career that has now seen him tot up 28 Test centuries, Root has played more for the classical crowd than the mosh pit. But his adoption of an outrageous reverse ramp this summer has shown he is willing to turn up the volume. His latest attempt saw him hoist Shardul Thakur over third man for six, leaving the India seamer all shook up.
“The Yorkshireman inside me is still saying ‘dig in, play straight and get behind it’,” said Root, shadowing a forward defensive shot.
“Then there’s the captain on my shoulder saying ‘be a rock star’. So you’re fighting between the two of them, sometimes.
“There have been occasions where I might have played some unusual shots if you look at the history of Test cricket, but they’ve felt like pretty low-risk options in the moment.
“Hopefully we’re still heading into the unknown and there’s more to come. We’ve just got to keep trusting and believing in what we’re doing. It’s been an amazing four or so weeks and I feel like there’s potential there for still a lot more as well, which is very exciting.”
Stokes has been a revelation since taking over from Root as captain earlier this year, liberating his players with bold words, brave actions and a promise to never back down.
He took his messaging to a new level after seeing the ease with which Root and Bairstow finished off India, claiming he would have been happier to go after an even bigger target.
“There was a bit of me that almost wanted them to get 450 (in front), to see what we did,” he said.
“Teams may be better than us but teams will not be braver than us – that’s a quote from Jack Leach, he just said it to me. Chasing 378 seven weeks ago would have been a scary thing for us to look at but we knew what we were going to try and do. We were always going to try and win a game. If we needed to get 200 from 30 overs we would have tried to do that.
“The last five weeks have been an incredible turnaround. I don’t think everyone can understand what has happened here.”