This is Test match cricket, but not as we know it. For the first time in England, Test match day has turned into Test match night.
While the pink ball and floodlights were a novelty for the near sell-out crowd at Edgbaston, elsewhere proceedings followed a rather more well-worn path as Alastair Cook and Joe Root notched another century each to their respective bedposts.
After a series that saw South Africa’s bowlers force England’s top order to live off scraps, this was a happier day for the top four who helped themselves to a West Indian buffet that started serving just after 2 pm.
Briefly, it seemed like this might not be the case. At the moment, it seems you can change the playing hours, the opposition and even the colour of the ball, but England will always end up 39/2.
But this was not the day to dwell on the ongoing problems with England’s top order, but rather one to bask in its successes.
They are not quite as opposed as night and day, but Cook and Root certainly stand at different ends of a number of scales.
One left-handed, one right. The veteran former captain and his fresh-faced replacement. Only one man in the side is older than Cook, only one younger than Root. One of them plays every shot in the book, the other favours about three and that includes the leave. Cook is approaching the twilight of his career, Root striding out into its blazing midday sun.
Just as day bleeds slowly, almost imperceptibly, into night, so we are beginning to witness the gradual changing of eras in English cricket — England’s highest international run-scorer passing the baton on to the man who looks best placed to one day overtake him.
Fortunately for Root, so far he has grasped that baton with both hands, looking in such good touch on Thursday that you would even have backed him to score some runs with said baton.
He was not, it should be said, overly tested by the West Indies’ bowling attack that was too loose and struggled to exert any pressure — a situation not helped by some fairly unforgivable sloppiness in the field, but Root nevertheless cashed in, never looking better than when driving crisply off the back foot.
Root along with Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Steve Smith is part of cricket’s most illustrious boyband — the four skippers jostling for supremacy at the top of the batting tree — and now, just as he wears what was Cook’s captaincy crown, slowly he is also taking on the role of his side’s most dependable run-maker.
Fortunately for England, Cook seems in no hurry to hand over that mantle just yet and so for now they get to wallow in the glorious middle of the two’s career venn diagrams.
The result? A 248-run partnership, the highest ever recorded in day night Test cricket’s admittedly limited sample size. And while Root was eventually removed for 136, Cook was still there at the close, 153 not out with a whole day’s play and a 31st Test century under his belt — that insatiable hunger for more runs put on hold overnight.
These then are days (and nights) to be enjoyed for England, who are soaking up the last of the rays from one era and the first of another, making the most of their time bathing in the strangely reassuring glow of two suns.
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