The latest world rankings have been released and Joe Root is back at No 1 – just reward for the world's in-form batsman as he supplants Kane Williamson.
It is the second time Root has topped the rankings and represents a new achievement for an English batsman.
Tough batting pitches and the Dukes ball combine to partly explain why so few England batsmen have reached top spot, with Michael Vaughan the last before Root was previously No 1 in 2015.
The ranking gives substance to his assertion when speaking to those close to him in January that he felt this would be his year as a batsman.
Confidence has flowed through his batting, the only blips during the lottery on poor pitches in India and a dicey couple of Tests against New Zealand when he may have suffered from playing too much county cricket, which is counterintuitive to the argument England players are let down by the schedule.
Since the restart of the Test summer in August it has clicked again. Root has reeled off three centuries taking his tally to six this year. A seventh would be another English record.
But how has he done it? What has changed from 2018-2020 when he averaged 32 at home and looked as if he was a fading force? Why is he avoiding the fate of predecessors as captain and looking stronger after 56 Tests rather than worn down?
Root is a tinkerer. He loves batting so much that he studies it non-stop, picking up traits from other players. He has tried a wider stance, smaller movements and this year copied Williamson's bat twiddle in his pre-shot routine before dropping it. "Now he is not far off from when he started with his technique. To me it looks simple again," says Graham Thorpe, the England batting coach.
Root has changed his media duties this summer, bringing his pre-match press conference forward 24 hours so he can clearly concentrate on batting the day before a Test.
He has also given up playing Twenty20 cricket for England, accepting it is better for his longevity, and his batting. Those three lean years coincided with Root trying to force his way back into England's T20 side.
As a youngster, Root's two batting heroes were Vaughan and Thorpe, and he combined a bit of both in his technique. Thorpe has worked with him since before he played for England and Vaughan is often at the other end of the phone if he needs a sounding board.
But mainly Root has done it all himself this year. He knows his game so well that Thorpe believes anyone could coach him now; although Thorpe was first to give him throw-downs at England's net session on Tuesday, the two chatted every so often through a specific movement.
The key to Root playing at his best is his alignment. He is perfectly side on, the way Ted Dexter used to teach batting.
Study photographs from Headingley and you will see his back foot is parallel to the crease, his left foot is not moving outside of his right so he is not falling over to the off side. Everything is compact and he is balanced. His hands are tight to his body and his left shoulder is dipping into the line of the ball so he is at the correct angle to play the delivery from where it has come from.
He has always been a fine back foot player but his game on the front foot has improved this summer too because of his alignment. He is playing the ball late or "under his eyes" as Thorpe puts it. He is averaging 52.40 against pace on the front foot compared to 15 last year.
"His shoulders are much straighter. He is leaving the ball really well so knows where his off stump is. His allround scoring ability is at exceptional level which means the margin of error for bowlers is very small," says Thorpe.
But mainly he is scoring his runs square of the wicket, playing that wonderful back foot punch that is his hallmark. "The sideways position allows the ball to come alongside you. He can play a horizontal cut shot if it is wider but if it is under him he can play that back foot punch shot as well," says Thorpe. "There are risks attached to playing a straight bat punch away from your body but his hands are so close to his body it is a low risk shot for him."
Root's only bump was against New Zealand when he scored 42, 40, 4 and 11 as their quick bowlers bowled a fuller length more consistently than India . Root was noticeably less settled at the crease, his movements more jerky. "We noticed he was picking the bat up differently," says Thorpe. "Sometimes when the lads go into county cricket, and I'm not knocking county cricket but this is the difference, the bowling is not as quick. You have to adjust for that and sometimes you slow your movements down but when you come back to international cricket you have to be sharper and quicker again."
Root worked on the kink in the one-day series with Pakistan and while playing for the Trent Rockets in the Hundred.
When asked what he thought was the most satisfying aspect of his batting this year, Root pointed to his mindset. "My decision making. I have managed the innings throughout the course of this series. I feel like I have got a nice balance between attack and defence and picking up length pretty well."
He has worked hard with the England strength and conditioning coach, Phil Scott, on his stamina. It started in lockdown last year when he was given a Peloton exercise bike and he has since added more shuttle runs and specific weight training exercises that work on channeling force from the ground up through the lower and upper body .
Parenthood has given him perspective on captaincy and batting, and crucially, he is not taking form for granted. "He is a guy who has desire and hunger to get runs and stay on what I call the crest of the wave as a batsman," says Thorpe, employing a term he used as a batsman when in good nick. "You see some players and you can tell they started their innings as if on 130. Joe's great mental skill is he comes in and knows everything starts on nought. It is all equal again. He then relishes that enjoyment of building an innings."
It all sounds so simple.
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