Joe Root woke up feeling “pretty groggy” on his first day as England captain but finished it in “dreamworld” with an unbeaten 184 which put his team in control in the first Investec Test at Lord’s.
A croaky Root struggled to make himself heard at times at close-of-play after letting his bat do all the talking with an occasionally fortunate but nonetheless memorable innings, which underpinned England’s recovery from 17 for two and then 76 for four against South Africa.
They finished it on 357 for five, despite Vernon Philander’s three for 46, thanks to Root’s determination to shrug aside the untimely cold and instead make the most of his opportunity as he became the sixth England captain to hit a century in his first innings in charge - sharing successive three-figure stands with Ben Stokes (56) and Moeen Ali (61no).
He admitted luck was on his side and was already walking back to the pavilion with just five runs to his name when he mishooked Kagiso Rabada, only to see the ball land over the head of substitute fielder Aiden Markram, and Root was dropped at gully on 16 off the same bowler and then stumped by yards off Keshav Maharaj on 149 but reprieved by a no-ball call, as the slow left-armer became the second South African to have a wicket chalked off for overstepping on a chastening first day of the series for the tourists.
The Sheffield Collegiate product described himself as being “in a bit of a dreamworld” and admitted that he could not have hand-picked a better script.
“I don’t think so, especially getting dropped once and just chipping someone on the boundary. It just seemed to fall into place today,” he said.
“When you get a life early, sometimes you feel like it is your day and you’ve got to try to make the most of it.”
He was never going to let his cold put him on the back foot.
“I felt pretty groggy this morning,” he added. “But nothing was going to stop me enjoying the day.
“It was an amazing opportunity to go out there as England captain and I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it. I made the most of everything and the cold wasn’t going to get in the way.”
As for his first stroke of fortune off Rabada, he said: “I was on my way walking back. I thought I’d hit it straight to him but luck was on my side.
“It could have been very different. But when you do get lives like that in Test cricket, you have to make the most of them.”
As his voice continued to crack, he added: “The Churchillian speeches have obviously gone down very well ... but I’ve got a bit of a cold and I’m milking it as well.
“It’s perfect timing, I suppose. It may have helped me concentrate slightly out there, knowing I wasn’t a hundred per cent and needed to work really hard to get through it and make the most of the start I had once I got in.
“From start to finish, I enjoyed every minute of it.”