JOHANNESBURG – Joe Root made his ninth test century to keep England on track against South Africa in the third test on Friday — and maybe keep the tourists in line for a long-awaited series win over the Proteas.
Root was 106 not out and England 238-5 when bad light and then a thunderstorm ended play around 45 minutes early on the second day. England was 75 behind and closing in on South Africa’s first-innings total of 313 at the Wanderers.
A first-innings lead would put England in a very strong position in the four-test contest, which it already leads 1-0 and can wrap up with a match to spare with victory in Johannesburg.
Root’s innings compensated for England’s early struggles at 22-2 and 91-4. He was backed up by Ben Stokes, who came out swinging to make 58 in a pulsating century stand with Root.
The pair put on 50 in 34 balls and 100 in just 85 balls before Stokes fell to end the 111-run stand. They served up those 111 runs in just over 15 overs.
“He takes pressure off you at the other end when he comes in and plays that way, that aggressively,” Root said of Stokes. “When you see someone scoring like that at the other end and putting the bowlers under pressure, it brings that out in your own game as well.”
Arriving with England at 22-2, Root was solid, but also eager to attack given the chance, hitting 17 fours and reaching 100 late in the afternoon with a sweet cover drive to the boundary.
On a testing pitch where batsmen were often uncomfortable, Root offered no real chances to the fielders apart from a near runout, when AB de Villiers swooped and threw at the stumps from mid-off with Root scrambling through for a single. If the ball hit, Root was gone.
It didn’t, and he made his way to three figures for the first time in five months, since his 130 against Australia in August.
While Root was the stabilizer, Stokes provided the turbo boost, relishing the chance to take on South Africa’s quartet of fast bowlers on a quick, bouncy track.