Chennai (Agencies): Joe Root marked his 100th Test with a commanding century – his third in as many matches – as England made an impressive start to the first Test against India.
The England captain hit a brilliant 128 not out in Chennai and led his side to 263-3 at the close. Root shared a stand of 200 with opener Dom Sibley, who ground out 87 from 286 balls before falling in the last over of the day.
The late wicket boosted India but the high-class partnership helped England recover from 63-2, having lost Rory Burns for 33 and Dan Lawrence for a duck on the stroke of lunch. Root and Sibley weathered a good spell of bowling in the afternoon session and then wore the bowlers down with a masterclass of batting in subcontinental conditions.
Root, who hit 228 and 186 against Sri Lanka last month, became the ninth player to mark his 100th Test with a century. Former England captain Michael Vaughan described the innings, which began in circumspect fashion and became increasingly aggressive, as “the perfect hundred”. “His 50 to 100 was magnificent,” said Vaughan, speaking on The Cricket Social. “He went up in the gears, which is exactly what this team needed. “It has been a great innings.”
England make strong start
The late loss of Sibley, lbw to an inswinging yorker from Jasprit Bumrah, will take the gloss off England’s day, but it was still a very impressive start to a much-anticipated series.
First, Root crucially won the toss and then, despite a wobble which included a rash stroke from Burns, he took advantage of a slow, flat pitch. The hosts, through their three frontline bowlers – Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin – applied intense pressure after lunch but Root and Sibley came through and were then able to profit against India’s less experienced bowlers.
India, the leaders in the World Test Championship standings, have only lost one match at home since 2013 and come into the four-match series buoyed by their historic win in Australia last month. But it was England who had the better opening day, although many more runs are needed. England scored 477 in their first innings on this ground during their last tour and lost by an innings, after India racked up 759-7 declared.
Root, who battled cramp late in the day, said his side had to aim for a score of “600 or 700”. “The foot holes are starting to wear quite quickly so if we can bat the whole of tomorrow and maybe into day three then things can speed up pretty quickly,” he said.
Root does it again
In Root, who was awarded a special cap to mark his landmark Test before play, England have a player in the form of his life. After a lean 2020, during which he did not record a century, the Yorkshireman has begun 2021 – a year in which England play India home and away and visit Australia for the Ashes – in incredible touch.
In Sri Lanka he batted positively, almost from the outset, but in this innings he was more measured against a far superior bowling attack. His first 25 runs took 72 balls before he reached his hundred from 164 as his attacking intent grew.
He swept with ease, albeit to a lesser extent than against Sri Lanka, and played a number of excellent shots through the off side off the front and back foot.
In Sibley he found a perfect foil – the England opener doggedly making an impressive score, with clips through mid-wicket his main scoring option.
Sibley had seen his opening partner Burns glove a catch when playing a reverse sweep, but provided no such gifts.
When the few mistakes did come in their dominant partnership, edges dropped short due to the slow nature of the pitch.
India were scrappy at times – they bowled 11 no-balls and there were fielding errors – and looked weary by the end but, as their recent series victory in Australia showed, they are never out of a contest.