Covering the England cricket team, there have not been too many of these this year.
Their three wonderful wins in Asia that all came before February 10 had barely a soul in attendance, and certainly not many travelled from England to watch.
The white-ball team provided some entertaining moments in the summer, not least when a Covid-19 outbreak wiped out the first team and a squad was cobbled together under Ben Stokes to thrash Pakistan 3-0, showing off the enviable strength in depth England have built.
Let’s go with this, though: Headingley Stadium, a late-summer Thursday, and the England captain and proud Yorkshireman Joe Root reels off his sixth – and, in fact, final century of 2021. It helped set up a series-levelling win over an excellent India side and, for a little while all felt right with the world. England had bowled India out for 68, the openers put on 135, and the No3 scored a handsome 70. The platform could barely have been more perfect.
Root’s 121 was in fact the second-smallest of his six centuries, but it was Root at his fluent best. He fizzed, taking 26 from his first 24 balls, and never really letting up. He played all around the ground, bringing up his fifty with a back-foot punch through the offside and his hundred with a flick through midwicket. Ravindra Jadeja’s spin was dealt with, as were India’s four-pronged seam attack.
When he reached the century he let out a guttural roar and held both arms aloft. By then he was partnered by Jonny Bairstow, with whom he has played since he was a boy. Bairstow looked every bit as made up as Root, whose perfect innings encapsulated his perfect year.
His runs kept flowing – he finished with 1,708 for the year – alas this was one of the few days he received enough support.