Danny Hall: Joe Root enjoys a whirlwind first day on the job as England captain

It is a city with a proud cricketing heritage so of the 676 players to have played in a Test match for England, it is somewhat remarkable that only three have been bred in Sheffield.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 23rd February 2017, 8:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 28th February 2017, 11:27 am
Yorkshire's Joe Root, the new captain of England Cricket team photocall at Headingley. Picture Tony Johnson.
Yorkshire's Joe Root, the new captain of England Cricket team photocall at Headingley. Picture Tony Johnson.

Perhaps even more extraordinary is the fact that two of those, Michael Vaughan and Joe Root, went on to captain their country. The third, Pitsmoor-born George Ulyett, won his first cap in 1877, had the distinction of once hitting a ‘36-mile six’ - helped largely through the ball flying through the open window of a train - and was once caught up in a riot playing in Sydney.

Enraged by his skipper, Lord Harris, being struck by a stick, Ulyett promptly grabbed two stumps and confronted around 10,000 angry fans.

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It’s hardly a situation Root is likely to find himself in this winter, when he leads England Down Under on his first away tour and looks to retain the Ashes, and he’ll hope for better memories than Ulyett in 1884/55 when he was shoved off a boat into the shark-infested sea by a local doctor.

Smoother waters beckon for Root, who was formally coronated in the top job last week at Headingley. It was a whirlwind, whistle-stop tour of the different media - BBC radio in the dressing room, national print newspapers in the next room, upstairs for Calendar, out on the balcony for Look North and out on the pitch for photos, via a five-minute chat with this columnist in a storage corridor - and if the Yorkshireman was under any illusions about the size of the task he has been given beforehand, then surely not now.

Not that this was a day for trepidation. Fittingly for England’s brave new era, Root went head first; promising a captaincy of instinct, of positivity and, most importantly but oft overlooked, of winning.

Including Vaughan - born in Manchester but bred in Sheffield since he was nine - and Lord Hawke, of Gainsborough but known as the father of Yorkshire CCC, Root is the tenth of 80 England captains to hail from God’s own county and the nine before him combined lost just three Tests more than his predecessor Alastair Cook, from 143 attempts.

George Ulyett, the late Sheffield-born England star

History, and birthplace, might be on his side but this will be no stroll for Root, no matter how effortlessly his ascent has been between his Test debut in 2012 and the present day.

The experiment of promoting him to No.3 last summer exposed a middle order that looked fallible without him and the emergence of Keaton Jennings and Haseeb Hameed means the smart money is on Root reverting to No.4 and letting the youngsters fight for places one and three around Cook, shorn of the captaincy and with a renewed determination to chase down every record in English cricket.

The ODI tour to West Indies, which departed yesterday, will be invaluable as his slow transition from player to leader begins.

Root already had authority under Cook, of course, as vice-skipper and hopes to remain close to his players. But, as captain, a little departure is inevitable ahead of summer series against South Africa and West Indies.

George Ulyett, the late Sheffield-born England star

After all, nothing much will be the same again for Root; son of Sheffield and captain of England.

The first of a few skippers to be unveiled somewhere other than Lord’s, he has already started his reign by doing things his way and the pleasant February weather in Yorkshire held up its end of the bargain as Root was shunted and shifted from camera to camera, shaking hands and accepting seemingly-endless congratulations with his trademark beaming smile shining just that little bit brighter.

Then, head spinning but still smiling, he was away, back to normal life with fiance Carrie and baby Alfie, perhaps knowing that life will never be normal again.