England v Pakistan: Joe Root is the complete modern cricketer

Joe Root
Joe Root won his sixth Test man-of-the-match award for England at Old Trafford. Only Ian Botham, with eight, had more before turning 26.

England's 330-run win over Pakistan in the second Test was mightily impressive. Joe Root's performance was even better.

He scored 254 and 71 not out, took four catches and even claimed a wicket in his only over as England wrapped up victory with a day to spare to level the series. He can do no wrong.

We have long since known Root is a top-class batsman - he would comfortably make mine or anyone else's world XI - but the way he played at Old Trafford was not far short of perfection.

Root truly is the complete cricketer: he has the traditional game of outstanding footwork, solid defence and straight-batted shots off front and back foot; and also has the clever dinks, improvised strokes and the power, too, when needed.

He combines the two expertly, and there was no better example of that than at Manchester, where he played with more freedom as the match progressed and was in full one-day mode by the time England declared for the second time.

The Yorkshireman is among an elite group of modern batsmen who prosper in all formats of the game - one that features India's Virat Kohli, Australian Steve Smith, South African AB de Villiers and New Zealand's Kane Williamson.

Root and Kohli, the more orthodox of that quintet, are the two batsmen I would choose to bat for my life. I could not pick between them.

How Joe Root compares with his peers
Source: Cricinfo
Steve Smith (Aus)413,8521460.18
Joe Root (Eng)443,8751056.15
AB de Villiers (SA)1068,0742150.46
Kane Williamson (NZ)484,0371349.23
Virat Kohli (Ind)423,1941246.28

Three is the magic number

There was much talk about Root's promotion to number three in the order before the Lord's Test, when he twice fell to cross-batted strokes - making 48 and nine - and received his fair share of criticism.

His contributions at Old Trafford should end the debate.

It was clear he preferred number four, where he had a much better record, and had to be cajoled into moving one place up the order.

I have always thought the importance placed on having your best batsman batting at three rather than four - often the Australian way - is overstated.

For some batsmen it is an issue, but I wonder if that is more superstition than anything else, because you could easily lose two early wickets rather than one - and still be exposed to the new ball.

Root has shown it does not bother him - and that, crucially, is all that matters.

Joe Root graphic

Is Root a captain-in-waiting?

Root came into the England side in 2012 as a chirpy, wide-eyed 21-year-old full of innocent enthusiasm, but, like most players of that age, he was not much more than a kid.

However, he has grown into one of the central figures in this England team, outstanding with the bat, a reliable catcher in the key second-slip position and a trusted voice in the dressing room.

His development into a mature, international cricketer dawned on me when I interviewed him in Dubai during last winter's series against Pakistan.

Root has always had plenty to say on the field, but what struck me was the manner in which he talked off it. You could tell he has a very astute cricket brain, he thinks about the game and his words carry great weight with his team-mates.

That invites the obvious question, one which has been asked for several years: is he a future England captain?

The answer is undoubtedly 'yes'. Root, now 25 and England vice-captain, would make an outstanding leader when Alastair Cook's time is up - but not yet.

He was not ready to take charge when Cook's captaincy came under intense scrutiny in 2014, and he is not ready now. His time will come.

Media playback is not supported on this device

Pint-Sized TMS: England thrash Pakistan at Old Trafford

Root the benchmark for England's batsmen

When you are in tremendous form, there can be a temptation to play your shots, but Root starts from scratch when the third Test of the four-match series starts on 3 August.

He is so hungry and determined - especially after the disappointment of Lord's - that there is no danger of Root falling into that trap at Edgbaston.

Alex Hales, James Vince and Gary Ballance would be advised to follow his example.

Given England's almost total dominance at Old Trafford, it seems strange that three of the top five failed.

Opener Hales has struggled since enjoying what appeared to be a breakthrough series against Sri Lanka this summer and Ballance has managed only 72 runs in three innings since his recall.

However, the greatest concern is number four Vince, who edged an expansive drive at Lord's and fell in similar fashion at Old Trafford, moments after being dropped when playing the same stroke.

You simply cannot keep getting out in the same fashion in Test cricket. If the scenario is repeated at Edgbaston, his place will surely be untenable.

Alastair Cook and Joe Root
Alastair Cook and Joe Root scored a combined 506 runs in four innings in the second Test. The rest of the top five contributed 75.

England must give Rashid a chance

England missed a golden opportunity to play leg-spinner Adil Rashid in a two-man spin attack at Old Trafford, when they had enough batting depth to allow them to drop a specialist batsman in Vince.

The fact remains that England still need to see Rashid in action before the winter tours to Bangladesh and, more pertinently, India, where conditions will almost certainly demand two spinners.

People may argue that Edgbaston is less conducive to spin than Old Trafford, but my stance has not changed: Rashid should be picked to avoid him entering the final Test at The Oval with the added pressure of knowing it is his only chance to impress.

England will need Rashid in the future and, from his point of view, he needs to feel part of the side. That is only going to happen if they play him.

Although Ben Stokes' absence would be a big loss if he fails to recover from the calf injury which ended his involvement in the second Test, I expect England to press on and complete a series win.

Pakistan were totally outplayed at Old Trafford, they have never won a Test at Edgbaston in seven attempts and the momentum is firmly with England.

Root, more than any other player, is responsible for that.

Jonathan Agnew was speaking to BBC Sport's Justin Goulding

Media playback is not supported on this device

Alastair Cook says England 'ground down' Pakistan

Top Stories