A closer look at Joe Root’s record as England captain after 59 Tests

Joe Root

Joe Root quickly shelved talk about his future as England captain after the Ashes were lost in Melbourne but statistics suggest he may be nearing the end of the road.

An innings defeat at the MCG, handing Australia an unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, was no way to mark Root’s record-equalling 59th Test as skipper.

He insisted it would be “selfish” of him to discuss his own future but here, the PA news agency looks at how he compares to his country’s longest-serving leaders.

The 50 club

Joe Root, left, and Sir Alastair Cook
Joe Root, left, has matched Sir Alastair Cook’s record of 59 Tests as England captain (Adam Davy/PA)

Root joined his immediate predecessor Sir Alastair Cook on 59 Tests as England captain and is one of only five men to captain England in 50 or more Tests.

All of those have been in the last 30 years, with Michael Atherton the first to reach the landmark with 54 games between 1993 and 2001.

That record stood until surpassed by Cook in 2016, with Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss standing down after 51 and 50 respectively in between times while Nasser Hussain came up just short on 45.

None have matched Atherton’s eight-year reign in the years since, with Cook and Strauss serving six years apiece and Vaughan five.

Root, appointed in February 2017 although his first Test in charge was not until July of that year, is coming up to the same timeframe as his fellow Yorkshireman and after a difficult spell – made all the more onerous by coronavirus protocols and having to carry the batting line-up almost single-handedly in recent years – he may soon decide he has done his time.

Root’s record

Root’s 27 Test wins as captain are an England record, surpassing Vaughan by one, although his win percentage of 46 per cent is lower than both Vaughan and Strauss at 51 and 48 per cent respectively.

His batting average in that time is 47.47, around five runs down on his Test career average but still the highest of England’s 50 club, and his astonishing 1,708 runs at 61 in 2021 demonstrate that his batting has been able to stand up to the rigours of captaincy.

The team’s batting record under his leadership, though, shows an average of just 29.10 runs per wicket – lower even than Atherton’s wildly inconsistent team of the 1990s (29.87) and well down on the average under Cook, Vaughan and Strauss.

They have passed 400 in only eight of 86 completed innings since he took charge – they have been bowled out as many times for 120 or less, with Melbourne the sixth occasion his side have been dismissed short of 100 including a low water mark of 58 all out against New Zealand in March 2018.

Rest of the world

Graeme Smith, left, and Steve Waugh
Graeme Smith, left, holds the record for most Tests as captain while Steve Waugh, right, has the best win percentage of the top 10 (Tom Hervezi/David Jones/PA)

Root and Cook rank joint-eighth on the all-time list for most Tests as captain, with Root set to pass India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni into seventh outright in this series assuming he plays in both remaining Tests.

Graeme Smith is the only man to pass 100, leading South Africa from 2003 to 2014 in which time they won 53 out of his 108 Tests.

Australians Allan Border (93 Tests) and Ricky Ponting (77) sandwich New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming (80) on the list, with Clive Lloyd completing the top five with 74 Tests as West Indies skipper.

Virat Kohli has led India in 67 Tests following predecessor Dhoni’s 60, with Cook and Root followed by another Australian in Steve Waugh (57) to round out the top 10.

Waugh’s 72 per cent win rate is the best of that group, followed by compatriot Ponting on 62 per cent and Kohli with 58. Smith and Lloyd came up just short of the 50 per cent mark, with Root next up ahead of Dhoni, Cook, Border and Fleming as the latter pair won just 35 per cent of their games in charge.