Chennai, February 5
Captain Joe Root won the battle of attrition against Indian spinners with a classy century in his 100th Test as England reached a comfortable 263 for three at stumps on Day 1 of the first match today.
Root, unbeaten on 128 off 197 balls, showed his mastery over slow bowlers as he scored his 20th Test hundred, and the third in as many matches, becoming only the ninth player in the history of Tests to score a 100 on his 100th appearance.
He admirably guided young opener Dom Sibley (87 off 286 balls), who showed commendable game awareness and enormous doggedness during their 200-run partnership for the third wicket before Jasprit Bumrah (2/40) got him in the final over of the day.
Root’s innings was an exhibition of how to construct an innings on a low, slow track while countering a hostile post-lunch spell from Ishant Sharma (15-3-27-0) in which he got the ball to reverse-swing.
Shots all around
Root, who has been scoring heavily with the sweep, brought the shot out of the closet once the Indian spinners started altering the length. His innings had full-blooded slog-sweep in front of the square, conventional sweep towards square, the paddle sweep behind square and also a switch-hit sweep, in which he changed his batting grip against Shahbaz Nadeem. His first six was also hit off a slog-sweep off Ravichandran Ashwin. This was after he lost almost five litres of fluid in the sapping Chennai heat.
Root and Sibley knew that they had to tire Ishant, Ravichandran Ashwin (1/56) and Bumrah out as Virat Kohli would then have to bring on the inexperienced Washington Sundar and Nadeem. With no help to the spinners from the track, it became easier for Root and Sibley to use their feet to dominate the two spinners, who looked clueless.
Nadeem and Sundar struggled to hit the right length and the abrasive surface of the track meant that the red SG brand ball, which was expected to retain its hardness and seam for a longer duration, got soft and scuffed up by the 40th over. This meant the batsmen got extra time to adjust their footwork against both spin and pace.
Ashwin was brought into the attack as early as seventh over but Sibley and Rory Burns during the first 90 minutes were solid, putting on 63 runs for the opening stand.
After two dismissals in the first session, England were in complete control in the next two sessions on a lifeless track. It will get more difficult for batting as the game progresses and with India to bat fourth, the first innings score by both teams will be crucial. — Agencies, TNS
After Oz thrills, grind on field
Chennai: Soon after India opener Shubman Gill let the ball slip through his legs at the square-leg boundary for four in the 78th over, wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant was heard shouting: “Body language is going down, lift it up”.
After the thrills of cricket in Australia, where the wickets had a lot of help for the bowlers, it was a tough grind for India on the field today. As England dominated the second and third sessions, they were having it easy as the home spinners were ineffective while the fielders’ shoulders drooped in the heat and humidity.
“I think we were okay in the second session. But in the beginning of the last session, we were a bit here and there,” said Jasprit Bumrah at the end of play.
“There are lot of incentives coming when you take a lot of wickets and the body language is automatically good. Sometimes in the heat it is difficult to keep the body language up,” he added. “But, yeah, after a while we were okay. We were trying to keep in a lot of effort and trying to create chances.” TNS
England 1st innings
R Burns c Pant b Ashwin 33
D Sibley lbw b Bumrah 87
D Lawrence lbw b Bumrah 0
J Root not out 128
Extras: (lb 4, nb 11) 15
Total: (3 wickets, 89.3 overs) 263
FOW: 1-63, 2-63, 3-263
Bowling O M R W
Ishant Sharma 15 3 27 0
Jasprit Bumrah 18.3 2 40 2
Ravichandran Ashwin 24 2 68 1
Shahbaz Nadeem 20 3 69 0
Washington Sundar 12 0 55 0