Yorkshire 356 for 8 (Root 147, Bailey 3-56, Parkinson 3-79) trail Lancashire 566 for 9 declared (Jennings 238, Croft 104, Vilas 82) by 210 runs
Let us be cautious. Hutton and Statham epitomised their county’s best qualities and combined to wonderful effect on a famous Ashes tour. On top of which, there was an essential integrity about the two men that ennobles their posthumous reputations. Not for nothing was Malcolm Lorimer’s collection of tributes to Statham entitled Glory Lightly Worn. Root, though, is only 31 and may have five years of first-class cricket ahead of him. And while Anderson will be 40 in July, it seems clear he will play on as long as he retains both his fitness and his private fire. We cannot yet definitively assess the career of either of our current champions.
And now let us not be cautious at all. Much of what we said about Hutton and Statham applies to Root and Anderson. Most critics would agree that over the past five years the pair have been their country’s best cricketers (although Ben Stokes would also be in that frame.) They are fit to be ranked with their predecessors and the only truly surprising aspect about Root’s century today was that it followed his six other first-class innings against Lancashire, in which he had managed a total of 58 runs with a best of 22.
Everything else was fond and familiar. There was the unobtrusive accumulation of runs as though he did not want the bowlers to cotton on they were being milked. He got off the mark with a single squeezed backward of square on the leg side off Anderson. He leg-glanced his England colleague for his first four and later cover-drove him twice to the Long Room boundary.
Vastly more frequent were the Bank of England defensive strokes, the controlled hooks, the wristy cut past gully or the tuck to either side of square leg. There were two edges through the slips but neither went to hand. Root’s scoring rate appeared the work of a conjurer: his fifty came off 73 balls and his century off 150.
By comparison with his former England captain, Anderson sometimes looked a little out of sorts. He roughed up George Hill with short balls early in the morning session and dismissed him when Hill dishclothed a pull to Dane Vilas at midwicket. Otherwise, the man often seen as the finest new-ball bowler in England’s history frequently seemed discontented, either with a streaky shot or with the slow pitch or with life itself. And of course, he has something of an issue with Root at present. The ex-England skipper was at least complicit in the decision to leave Anderson and Stuart Broad out of the party for the recent tour to the West Indies, which perhaps explains why the Lancashire bowler was unwilling to engage in much chat with his friend. Then a reluctant smile would play about that world-weary face. After all, this was only Rooty and, my God, had they played some cricket together?
For it is difficult to imagine that cricket can be made to seem much simpler than Brook contrived to do during his 48-minute innings this morning. George Balderson, a fine young player and a useful fourth seamer, was humbled to impotence by five boundaries in two overs. But perhaps it all became too easy; perhaps Brook needed a reminder that it was earth beneath his feet. Instead, he looked to work a fine leggie from Parkinson through midwicket but did not get to the pitch of the hard-spun ball. It turned past his bat and hit the middle stump. Brook was thus dismissed for 41, his first score below fifty in seven first-class innings this season. He currently averages 135 but such statistics sometimes play us false; not in Brook’s case, however. The neutrals who have watched him bat are certain that no cricketer in England is in better form.