Root became only the third England batsman to hit six centuries in a calendar year.
Root’s 121 in front of a rapt Headingley faithful was his sixth ton in 11 appearances since the turn of the year, equalling a national record previously shared by Denis Compton and Michael Vaughan. With an aggregate of 1,398 in that time, and an average of 69.90, the 30-year-old is entering a plane of near perfection that few ever get to experience.
He has also scored three in a row in the current LV= Insurance Series, but while his previous efforts at Trent Bridge and Lord’s have led to a draw and a defeat, only a cricketing miracle would prevent his latest coming in a winning cause.
At stumps on day two of the third Test England were 423 for eight, already 345 ahead of an India side who were bundled out for 78.
Malan, who made a classy 70 on his return to the side and kept Root company in a fine stand of 139, was happy to rank him among the game’s elite band of batsmen.
“He is phenomenal isn’t he? He just scores runs all the time,” he said.
“You look at all the best players that have played – all the greats, if you want to put it that way – and as soon as you miss your line and your length, they hurt you. Joe is one of those.
“It’s great to watch and it’s great to have the best seat in the house when he does play as well as that. It’s the ease of what he does and the speed at which he does it.
“He just moves his feet so well and his position when he hits the ball is so good…he hits the ball so much later than most people. He always looks to score with intent, you know if you bowl a bad ball he just puts you away.”
While Root’s prolific output has become almost predictable, Malan’s impressive knock from number three was a less certain outcome. It is three years since he was cast out from the Test arena by national selector Ed Smith who questioned his suitability for home conditions, and he has since carved out a niche as a white-ball specialist.
His knock here places him in a strong position to hold the shirt until the Ashes this winter but, when quizzed about his plans, Malan was quick to highlight the unforgiving nature of the England calendar in the Covid era.
Anyone selected for both the Twenty20 World Cup and the Ashes in Australia can expect to be away from early October to mid-January in potentially restrictive bubble environments. For now, Malan has signed up for the resumption of the Indian Premier League season with Punjab Kings and was reluctant to commit to being available at every turn.
“The only guarantee we have at the moment is IPL – we don’t know if we’re going to the World Cup and we don’t know if we’re going to the Ashes, so it leaves us in quite a tough situation,” he explained.
“Say you give up the IPL and you don’t get picked for either of the England squads, then you’ve given up the IPL. Or if you go to the IPL and then you get selected after you’ve gone to the IPL then you’re sat in the bubble for five and a half months. Hopefully we can get some answers and we can find some time to get a rest out of these bubbles.”