Joe Root left the field, bat raised, cheered by the Lord’s crowd after his majestic and winning hundred.
It was a special moment for Root considering what had gone before and he would go on to talk about the « unhealthy effect » the captain – who was dumped just under two months ago – ended up having on his personal life.
A short distance back, leaving his former skipper to take his bow alone, Ben Foakes: the junior partner in the unbroken sixth wicket of 120 runs who had helped secure victory over New Zealand in a fabulous first Test.
Records will show Foakes contributed 32 runs from 92 balls in the partnership, to Root’s run-a-ball 81. More importantly, they will show that he was there at the end.
The Surrey wicketkeeper came in with England still firmly against him, over 100 runs from the win with five wickets remaining and only bowlers left to come. The fact that they crossed the line so comfortably at the end is due to the genius of Root, yes, but also to the efforts of Foakes.
Highlights from day four of the first Test between England and New Zealand at Lord’s
It’s a big summer for Foakes. It’s been five years since he was named as part of the Ashes 17/18 England tour. A year later, he scored a century on his debut for Sri Lanka, but never quite had a chance to establish himself as the Test side’s first-choice wicket-keeper.
In fact, the match at Lord’s was his first home test, with the previous 11 having all come away.
Foakes’ credentials as a pure glover have never been in doubt. His cricket manager at Surrey, Alec Stewart, himself a former England wicketkeeper, has repeatedly said he thinks the 29-year-old is the best in the world behind the stumps.
With the bat however, he was considered the third of the three compared to Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, the men for whom he acted as understudy at various times over the years. Given that both are also good keepers, that was enough to give them the edge.
But with England committed to Bairstow as a frontline striker and Buttler left to thrive in the shorter formats for now, Foakes looks set for a decent run in the XI.
He didn’t exactly let opportunity slip effortlessly into his gloves on the West Indies tour, with unusual sloppiness behind the stumps and an average of just 19.20 over six innings, four of which were played on the flatter terrain.
So, although his place was under no real pressure in the New Zealand series, he still had to prove that he deserved to keep it for the long term. Since his first series in Sri Lanka, he had a test average of 16.18 at the start of the series and there were questions about his ability to bowl first-class fast.
An average of 98.75 in the County Championship this season, with one century unbeaten and two 50s, shows Foakes is more than capable of scoring runs against bowling but, as countless England batters have found in recent time, there is a big difference between county bowlers and those at Test level.
Tim Southee provided an example of this as he swung out of the crease to draw a nil and tame dismissal from Foakes, doing little to allay doubts, and although his glove work was back to its usual level, he came out in the second innings under that bit more pressure.
After all, it’s not hard to envision a scenario where a supposedly long sideways run is cut short due to a lack of runs.
Harry Brook has had a blistering start to the season with Yorkshire and a Test start is surely a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. If England were desperate to get him into the XI against South Africa later this summer, could they reconsider their stance on Bairstow? Give him back the gloves he was so disappointed to lose and put Brook at five?
Jos Buttler was in sparkling form for Rajasthan Royal in the IPL
Or perhaps Buttler’s searing form in limited overs cricket continues. New England men’s cricket manager Rob Key has been a strong supporter of Foakes’ predecessor behind the stumps in the past, while Ben Stokes has explained how he relied on Buttler for advice when he led the team for the first time in Root’s absence. 2020.
Admittedly, on paper Buttler seems a better fit for the kind of adventurous cricket expected under Brendon McCullum and Stokes than it was under Chris Silverwood, where the emphasis was on hitting long and burning out the opposition. . Could he be in line for an encore?
Neither scenario is particularly likely at this time. But if Foakes doesn’t contribute with the bat, he’ll be quick to look over his shoulder, especially if England persist with a formation that sees the tail start at No.8.
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That’s why Foakes’ second round against Lord’s was so important. The races were important, but more so how he got them.
He battled through night three, seeming to hit on a different surface from Root – no shame in that – but did what was necessary. He made sure to be there for the start of day four.
The player who came out on the fourth morning, however, hardly resembled the one who had scratched the night before. There was a freedom and fluidity to Foakes’ batting, he had located the pitch Root was hitting on and found that to his liking too.
Gone was the jitters of day three, replaced by calm confidence as he knocked, shot and – best of all – drove halfway through four to help England achieve their goal. While staying safe in defence, never giving the Black Caps a sniff of the wicket that would have opened the game up in the open.
No one could have asked for more from Foakes but already attention has turned to Trent Bridge and the second Test, which begins on Friday.
In the same way that McCullum and Stokes will see England win, this is just the start – a good start, which will no doubt inspire confidence, but is only the first step on a long road.
One of Foakes’ priorities will be to end a streak of 20 Test innings without a half-century. If he beats like he did on Sunday, chances are he won’t make it 21.
Root deserved the applause, but if things go as planned for Foakes, this fourth round at Lord’s could also hold a special place for him, something worth way more than 32 points.
Watch day one of the second LV=Insurance Test between England and New Zealand, at Trent Bridge, live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 10am on Friday.