A look at whether Joe Root can eclipse Sir Alastair Cook’s Test record

Joe Root currently has the look of a man who is no longer worried about getting out. You just needed to watch the England captain flay the New Zealand attack whilst his country was under the pump in the first Test to realize that the Sheffield-born batsman no longer feels in any danger of being outfoxed by the opposition bowlers.

Root’s flamboyant stroke play against the Kiwis was almost Kevin Pietersen-esque, there were daring late cuts, aggressive hooks, and majestic straight drives down the ground. The Lord’s crowd knew before the ball got anywhere close to the boundary that Root had hit a four just by the sound of the ball coming off the sweetest part of the England captain’s bat. Indeed, it sounded like a gunshot echoing around the famous old ground every time Root got in line and dispatched another hapless New Zealand quick to the fence.

A year to remember

In reality, this has been the story of Root’s year so far. The feast of runs started in Sri Lanka in January and carried on when England arrived in India.

During this tour, Root would accomplish the feat of scoring three consecutive hundreds in a row.

India eventually won the series but Root managed to fill his boots on the subcontinent as the 30-year-old clocked up the big scores and shot up the run rankings in the ICC World Test Championship. Astonishingly, in just 13 tests this year, Root has managed to score 836 runs at a barnstorming average of 69.7, leading many to believe that the England batsman will go on to break a host of records this season. Indeed, with a long series against India planned for the middle of the summer, Root will get the chance to put his foot down once more in a bid to score the most runs in a calendar year. That record is currently held by Pakistani batsman Mohammad Yousuf who notched up 1788 runs in just 11 matches in 2006. It was an extraordinary effort by Yousuf who boasted an average of 99.33 on New Year’s Eve 2006.

The Ashes could scupper Root’s chance at breaking history

Now, Root will have ample opportunity to score the runs needed off his meaty New Balance bat given how many fixtures England have left this season. Indeed, a home summer series against India is followed by an Ashes tour Down Under at the end of the year. However, the feeling is that he will need to be within touching distance of Yousuf’s record by the time the England squad lands in Australia given how tough the tour will be for the Three Lions. Punters only have to look at England’s odds on winning the Ashes, which, as of the 4th of June, Betway has as high as 3/1, to understand how complicated batting will be on those green Aussie pitches.

As things stand, it does look like Australia will be able to hang onto the Ashes after drawing the 2019 series 2-2 which may derail Root’s plans on surpassing Yousuf’s staggering tally of runs in a calendar year. But you can picture a scenario where the Englishman doesn’t mind, so long as he reaches his ultimate goal.

Indeed, Root may or may not get there when the ball drops on the 31st of December, but not breaking that record won’t matter that much to him – the England captain is playing the long game in terms of rewriting cricket history.

Can Root cook up a storm?

Root turned 30 on the 30th of December 2020. Now, whenever a cricketer reaches this milestone, they enter the second and final stage of their career. Of course, many can play until well past 30, but a player is a lot closer to the end than they are to the beginning when 30 comes up. For Root, he will know that he roughly has around five years left at the top. This means that he has five years remaining to try and overtake Sir Alastair Cook’s record as England’s leading run-scorer, but can he do it?

When Cook eventually retired in 2018, he had accumulated 12472 runs, making him England’s all-time leading run-scorer in the Test arena. At the time of writing, Root is on 8659 runs which means he trails Cook’s record by 3813 runs. So with around 60 months of professional cricket left for Root, how much will he have to score over that time, and is it a realistic target?

If you divide what Root needs to tie Cook’s record, 3813, by five, you will get 762. So in essence, the Yorkshireman will need to score 762 runs a season over the next five years to match Cook’s tally of 12472 runs, to surpass it he will naturally need to find an extra single along the way. Although as things stand and on current scoring prediction models, Root will in fact pass Cook’s record by a lot more than a solitary run.

Root made his debut in 2012 but only batted twice, scoring a mere 93 runs, so to make things simpler, we will say that Root has had nine full professional seasons as an England player and count all the runs he has scored since the start of January 1st, 2013. Over this time and up until the present day, Root has averaged 962 runs a season which is exactly 200 runs more than he needs per year to better Cook’s record. In fact, at the very worst, there was only one season out of the last nine when Root scored under the required amount of 762 runs a year, and that was in 2020. Although Root was more a victim of fate than he was bad form as cricket around the world was curtailed.

With all of this in mind, every way you look at the equation, it ends with Root retiring as England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer. Indeed, if his body lets him, Root will achieve his ultimate goal.

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