Guest Column, Matt Root: I am so proud of what my sons, Joe and Billy, have achieved

Joe Root practices his batting in the back yard at home
Joe Root practices his batting in the back yard at home

It hadn’t really hit me before, but I was at the Oval with an old friend watching the first day of the fifth Test of the Ashes.

He was with a chap who had spotted England’s ODI captain, Eoin Morgan, a few yards away and wanted a photo with him.

“Do you think he will mind?” he asked. “No, of course not,” Helen, Joe’s mum, said, and took him over for the photo. On returning, my old friend had given it some thought.

“No, I don’t suppose he would have minded,” he remarked. “Particularly as he was asked by the mother of the best player in the world!”

I think this is the first time I realised the magnitude of Joe’s achievement. To be the best Test batsman in the world, and be talked about in the same breath as Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and - dare I say it - Don Bradman, is unbelievable.

The last Englishman to achieve the feat was our own Michael Vaughan.

Then: Joe and Billy Root get an early taste of cricket

Then: Joe and Billy Root get an early taste of cricket

What an achievement!

Only three Sheffield-bred players have ever been capped for England (the first was George Ulyett, from Pitsmoor, in the nineteenth century) and for two of them to top the world rankings is remarkable.

It is only 13 years ago but seems a lot longer since my father and I took him up to Guiseley to make his Yorkshire Schools U11 debut v Durham. He and brother Billy would play for hours, wherever there was somewhere large enough to swing a bat.

Practice would begin in the living room with a ping pong ball, first thing in the morning before school. In the school holidays this would continue in the garden with a tennis ball.

And now: Joe and Billy line up on England duty

And now: Joe and Billy line up on England duty

Our back garden was very small and backed on to Totley Brook, but if it was big enough to drop a ball, it was big enough to practice.

I can’t tell you the number of times I had to walk round to the field where the brook was accessible to retrieve balls that had been top-edged for six! This would continue until someone would give them a lift to Abbeydale Sports Club where they could ‘pad up’ and use a real cricket ball in the nets, stopping only for a brief bite to eat.

Billy has scored over 3,000 runs this season for Nottinghamshire CCC, Sheffield Collegiate and Leeds Bradford MCCU. Significantly, he became the first player ever to score 1,000 runs for an MCC University side.

Notts are top of the 2nd Xl County Championship and he has scored over 750 runs for the county - at an average of 65 - and is knocking on the door of the first team.

The two brothers don their whites in the back yard

The two brothers don their whites in the back yard

This year, Joe has scored almost 1,900 runs for England alone, at an average of over 60 and reached the No.1 spot in the world rankings.

They can both be very proud of what they have achieved in the game so far.

I certainly am!

Matt Root with wife Helen

Matt Root with wife Helen