Joe Root might have more wins than any other England captain, but only an Ashes win will make him a great.
The day after he chalked up his 27th victory, he got just about the saltiest response possible from the man whose record he had just broken.
Michael Vaughan, a long term friend and mentor to Root, thought the best way to acknowledge the new landmark was to remind the current skipper that he ‘will not go down as a great captain until he beats Australia.’
Maybe it is just the Yorkshire way, but Vaughan wasn’t alone with England head coach Chris Silverwood essentially agreeing that greatness for Root is almost entirely incumbent on success this winter.
Luckily for Root he is already a great England cricketer. His batting alone ensures that his legacy is secured.
However in a week in which he oversaw a desperate defeat to India at Lord’s with question marks over his leadership, his response was to take the entirety of the blame onto his shoulders and protect his players.
He then did more than most to push his side towards victory with yet another hundred and his players delivered for him in spades, and they all clearly love playing for him.
The innings and 76 run victory was the most emphatic way for Root to show that, while some might not consider him to be a great captain, he is certainly capable of great leadership.
“I think he’s a good Test captain,” said Silverwood. “I think he is growing and learning all the time.
“He’s got the potential to be great. Joe has got that record and no one can take that away from him now.
“We're going to go to Australia and if we win there we can have this conversation again. But I think there's potential there for him to be one of the great England captains.”
It is a curious thing to attach so much worth to one series. Mike Gatting won two matches out of his 18 in charge. David Gower won three out of 32. And by Vaughan’s yardstick that makes them great captains.
Root was only 14 when Vaughan lifted the Ashes urn, the first time he had seen an England captain do so, which will explain why it holds such importance for him.
But in the here and now, Root is doing some great things of his own not least of all finding an extra gear as a batsman four years into his captaincy, at a point when every other skipper has all but had enough with their own form on the wane.
Root has also helped show that his side are much more effective when they leave the overt aggression at the door.
India have vowed to come back with more at the Oval after a quiet game at Headingley, but England are determined not to get drawn in.
Silverwood added: “Joe and I reflected back on the Lord’s Test, and I think there was a controlled aggression around what they did. You can be aggressive in a very controlled way and I think that’s what they got right.”
Virat Kohli promised: “We are going to show more determination and show more intensity at the Oval.”
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