Cricket: Why Joe Root hopes England's World Cup triumph will inspire next generation of young stars
Sheffield's World Cup winner Joe Root hopes England's historic and dramatic victory over New Zealand at Lord's on Sunday will inspire a new generation of children to fall in love with cricket.
Root bunked off school to watch the conclusion of the famous Ashes victory over Australia in 2005 at home, and that series was the last to be screened on free-to-air television before it moved behind a Sky Sports paywall.
But Sky agreed to Channel 4 showing Sunday's showpiece final, and millions watched at home as Ben Stokes inspired England to a dramatic super-over victory against Kane Williamson's Kiwis.
England had never won the World Cup before Sunday, and had suffered defeat in all three of their previous finals. Chasing 242 to become world champions, England wobbled but Stokes and Jos Buttler steadied their run-chase, which went down to the final ball with two runs needed.
An exhausted Stokes pushed to mid-on, but Mark Wood couldn't get back for the second run and the World Cup was settled by a super-over. Even then the two sides couldn't be seperated, both hitting 15 runs, and so when Jason Roy and Buttler combined to run out Martin Guptill, England were crowned champions - by virtue of their higher boundary count throughout the game.
"It was unbelievable. Wow," said Root in the immediate aftermath, ahead of a celebration event the following day at The Oval.
"It's hard to sum up. What a day and what a tournament. We came through some difficult periods in the group stages and today when the pressure was on us. It was almost written in the stars.
"It's the culmination of four years of hard work, coming off the back of a difficult World Cup in Australia last time out. We've been on a journey since as a team, with some wonderful times on the field and off it, as well.
"It was surely one of the greatest games of all time. Certainly the most exciting I've ever witnessed. And for the kids watching on TV, you can't ask for a better advert than that. We want to improve and perform at the top of our game as well, but there's a duty beyond that to the game.
"We want to inspire. Hopefully, with the way we've gone about things in this World Cup, we've done that and the next generation want to go on and emulate what we've achieved."
Several members of Root's family were in the crowd to cheer him on at Lord's, including his young son Alfie. His grandmother, Mary, missed his innings, however, for a big game of her own; as captain of Abbeydale Park bowls club. She lost her game, but her team overall tasted victory; and she was back, at her daughter's house, in time for the dramatic finale.
For her grandson, it was yet another highlight in a career full of them so far. Along with Stokes and Buttler, Test captain Root is one of the golden boys of English cricket - there is a suggestion that MBEs may soon follow - and Michael Vaughan, another product of the Sheffield Collegiate club where Root and his brother Billy learned their trade, admitted yesterday that life may never be the same again for England's heroes.
World Cup glory is the first success of what could be a golden summer, for England and for Root, as the Aussies visit England for the latest instalment of the Ashes this summer - including a Test match at his home ground of Headingley.
"It's what we set out to do two or three years ago and we're halfway there," Root said. "We couldn't be in a better place really, having achieved what we've achieved here. This will give the guys confidence and we've talked about taking that forward into a series like that.
"Ashes cricket always has a different edge to it so that in itself will get everyone going. It's always so special... the atmosphere, the way it builds up and the way the guys get excited about it. It's like no other series in Test cricket.
"It's something I'm really looking forward to and it'll be massive, especially on the back of this. It'll make it even bigger."
The knock-on effect from Sunday's final is expected to be huge. The coaching academy in Root's name, overseen by his father, Matt, has regular coaching sessions on the Abbeydale outground where Joe and his brother Billy used to watch their dad play for Collegiate on Saturday afternoons. In one game, at Scarborough, Matt had to interrupt his first-team game to break up a fight between the brothers on the boundary, after Joe got Billy out first ball and Billy wouldn't give the bat back.
Chris Stewart played alongside Root for Collegiate, and also taught him at Dore Primary School. He remembers a sensible and polite lad, good at art as well as possessing obvious sporting prowess, and knew he was destined for a career in cricket when a young Root was just 11.
In breaks from lessons, Root's fellow classmates would bowl at him but couldn't get him out. So a handicap was suggested. Still no joy. In the end, Root faced the bowling batting left handed, on one leg, with one eye closed. No joy. Only when he closed both eyes did his classmates stand a chance.
"He was one of the first people to text me when I got the captaincy," said Josh Varley, a long-time friend of Root's and now first-team skipper at Collegiate. "He's still the same as he was all those years ago, although we realise he's got a lot on now.
"He's still around the club a lot when he can be, as are his family. His work ethic was always unbelievable. We used to play on the outfield in the summer and he'd bat all day. We'd have ten minutes, and he'd be back in.
"He took everything so seriously, did it all with 100 per cent effort and pride; whether that was in the middle, in the changing rooms or just messing about with a tennis ball on the sidelines. We're all very proud of him."