Nasser Hussain lauded him as England’s greatest ever batsmen, in all formats of the game... and, after Joe Root’s remarkable innings yesterday, it’s hard to really disagree.
Root’s masterclass - a stunning 83 off just 44 balls, against the mighty South Africans - not only kept England in the T20 World Cup, it gave them a much-needed shot of confidence that they can mix it with the very best.
After losing their opening game against West Indies, England risked another early exit from a world tournament until Root’s masterclass capitalised on good work from openers Jason Roy and Alex Hales before Moeen Ali hit the winning runs with two balls to spare.
But the Yorkshire batsman was quick to pay tribute to his team-mates after they set the platform for him.
“After the start we got - the guys up front were outstanding - it made mine and the other guys’ job a lot easier,” he said.
“It put South Africa straight under pressure and put us ahead of the game. It sets us up nicely now for the rest of the group stages.”
He added on his innings: “It was about not getting greedy and trying to get 20 an over, just being sensible and playing some smart cricket, build some partnerships and take it really deep.”
England captain Eoin Morgan said: “I felt we’d have had to play out of our skin to chase it down and we did just that.
“We have a lot of talent within our group and the best way for us to play is the way we did tonight.”
South Africa’s Faf du Plessis added: “We’ve all played this game long enough to know no game is unchaseable.
“England batted very aggressively and put us under real pressure. It was a great game but there were way too many extras for us.”
The chase was the second-biggest in T20 international history, and the highest ever in the T20 World Cup.
After Chris Gayle’s masterclass for the West Indies on Wednesday, England appeared to be on the way out of the World Twenty20 after watching the Proteas rack up 229-4 from their 20 overs.
Roy set the tone early on in England’s reply, hitting 43 off just 16 balls, but England were losing wickets too. Roy ramped Kyle Abbott for six then lobbed a catch attempting a repeat, Hales was pinned lbw on the crease by the same bowler and Ben Stokes - promoted to number three - plonked a Kagiso Rabada full toss straight to Chris Morris in the deep.
Root, as he often does, steadied the ship from number four and took England to the brink of victory, before holing out into the deep.
The scores were tied with one Abbott over to go but Chris Jordan and David Willey fell to consecutive balls, the latter nervily run out.
Moeen ended the drama by driving one past mid-off and punched the air to seal the end of a wonderful contest.