Yorkshire 191 for 3 (Root 75*, Handscomb 46) beat Nottinghamshire 185 (Taylor 60, Wessels 41, Bresnan 3-22) by seven wickets
In a match containing 18 international players, and eight in Champions Trophy squads, Root provided the definitive contribution: an hurried, unfussy and unbeaten innings of 75.
In a game where only one other man made 50 and against an attack containing five international bowlers, he was calm and restrained. Against three bowlers who are likely to feature in the Ashes later in the year, he made batting look easy.
In truth, this was an anti-climactic encounter. On a ground where the average score in this competition last year was an eye-watering 385, Nottinghamshire provided a reminder of the reasons they were relegated in the County Championship with a feckless batting performance that saw them bowled out with more than nine overs of their allocation unused. Their total was 200 below last year’s average and every bit of 100 below par on a slow and perhaps slightly two-paced surface.
Just for a moment, as Stuart Broad charged in from the Pavilion End, it seemed we might see a contest. But for all the pace he generated, for the immaculate length he bowled and for all the intimidating stares he aimed in Root’s direction – several of which were met by a bemused grin – there was no way past Root’s bat and no way to apply pressure with such a paltry score to defend.
And, having largely seen off Broad and the accurate Jake Ball, he milked the rest with ease. Shortly before the end he reverse swept his brother Billy Root, a spinner with a hint of Murali in his action, for four and then pulled him for six to complete the victory with more than 17 overs to spare.
The pair, who had never faced each other in county cricket – although they have fielded together for England when Billy fulfilled 12th man duties – travelled to and from the game together. After the six had landed, they exchanged a hug. Joe will play the next two Cup games for Yorkshire before departing on England duty. Billy, a terrific fielder and more than competent batsman if his List A debut against Worcestershire on Thursday is any indication, may struggle to retain his place if Steven Mullaney, who missed this game with a foot injury, is fit to return next week.
“It was a horrible situation,” Root senior said of his treatment of Root junior in the dying moments of the game. “I do feel guilty, but you’ve got to be professional. I know he’d have done the same to me if I’d been bowling. I might suggest on the way home he doesn’t bowl too many half-trackers.
“Stuart bowled really well, with good pace. I think he was trying to create a bit of theatre, but it’s hard to take it seriously when you know someone that well.
“Playing against this attack is about as close to international cricket as you get. It probably was my best one-day innings for Yorkshire. We were very clinical all day. It was a good, ruthless performance.”
The result gives Yorkshire a perfect start to their white-ball season but means Nottinghamshire have lost both their opening matches in this competition. Bearing in mind that the team which qualified for the quarter-finals last year suffered a maximum of three losses from their eight games and the fact that this year’s qualification process – involving a play-off to reach the semi-finals – is even more stringent and you might conclude that Nottinghamshire have, already, left themselves little margin for further error.
Yorkshire’s bowlers deserve credit for applying pressure. Liam Plunkett, who didn’t concede a boundary until his eighth over, and Tim Bresnan, who struck Michael Lumb a blow on the thumb that saw him skip fielding in order to go for an X-ray, were especially impressive.
But Nottinghamshire would accept that there was a lot of self-inflicted damage within their batting. Having negotiated the powerplay without much alarm (they were 43 for 0 after 10 overs) Alex Hales chipped Azeem Rafiq’s first delivery straight back to him, Lumb pulled a long-hop to mid-wicket and Samit Patel pulled another long-hop to mid-on.
Riki Wessels and Brendan Taylor rebuilt sensibly during a fourth-wicket stand of 65 but when Wessels clipped a leg-stump half-volley to deep backward square, it precipitated a sharp decline.
Root, arguably the only man in the top six to be dismissed, edged one angled across him, Taylor picked out deep mid-wicket and James Pattinson was run-out having presumed, wrongly as it transpired, that his drive had beaten Rafiq at short extra-cover. The image of Broad, last man out and caught on the boundary despite having 55 unused deliveries, rather summed up the somewhat overly aggressive nature of the innings.
Broad struck with his first ball in reply – Jonny Bairstow shuffling in front of a straight one – but the result was hardly in doubt. Adam Lyth took three boundaries off Pattinson’s first over in reply and, although Lyth fell pulling, Root was not to be denied. It was, perhaps surprisingly, only his third List A half-century for Yorkshire. It was also only his 17th innings.
Having caressed Broad for boundary through mid-on – his on drive perhaps the highlight of the day – Root eased him off his hip for four more. He only scored off seven of the 22 balls he faced from Broad (four singles and a two completing the picture), but he recognised that seeing him off was more important than seeing him punished and showed the composure and maturity that was lacking in the Notts innings.
“Their bowlers created some pressure and we had a few soft dismissals,” Taylor admitted afterwards. “They made it difficult to score, for sure, but 180 is never going to be enough at Trent Bridge. I’d think 260-270 was on the cards on that pitch.”
Yorkshire face Lancashire at Leeds on Monday, meaning Root will face, as he put it, “another grumpy fast bower” – in the presence this time of James Anderson. He will then face Mark Wood and co. when Yorkshire host Durham on Wednesday.
The pitches may not be quite as quick as those we anticipate in the Champions Trophy, but the level of competition isn’t far short. It bodes pretty well for England that Root, at least, is finding his form.