4th Test: Root leads fightback with unbeaten century to carry England past 300

Ranchi, Feb 23 (IANS) Joe Root shelved the Bazball approach to get back to playing attritional cricket and that paid off handsomely as he led England’s fightback with an unbeaten century to carry England to 302/7 at stumps on the opening day of the fourth Test against India at the JSCA International Stadium here on Friday.

Root’s sublime 106 not out off 226 balls, his 31st century in the format and also his tenth Test hundred against India, was laced with nine boundaries, helped England cross 300 after being 112/5 at lunch, with debutant fast-bowler Akash Deep taking first three scalps.

Root, who was under pressure due to lack of runs and criticism over ill-timed innovative shot selection, got ample support from Ben Foakes (47) and Ollie Robinson (31 not out) to stitch partnerships of 113 and an unbeaten 57 respectively on a pitch which looked cracked and has traces of variable bounce, seam movement and turn, to keep England on top at the end of day one’s play.

After being handed his debut cap by head coach Rahul Dravid and replacing the rested Jasprit Bumrah, Akash had Zak Crawley clean bowled for three via a nip-backer through the gate to send the off-stump on a cartwheel ride. The moment of happiness on getting his first Test wicket changed when the no-ball siren came calling, as replays showed he overstepped at the crease.

Crawley took full advantage of being let off by Akash by taking 18 runs off the fourth over of Mohammed Siraj. Akash Deep’s wait for the first Test wicket ended in the tenth over when he got a length delivery to nip away and took the outside edge of Ben Duckett’s bat to wicketkeeper Dhruv Jurel.

One brought two as Akash got one to seam in to beat the inside edge and hit the pad in front of the off-stump. India got the LBW decision in their favour via review as Pope fell for a two-ball duck. Akash finally took out Crawley for run-a-ball 42 when he got one to seam in from outside off-stump and went through the gate to hit the top of the off-stump.

Jonny Bairstow and Root stitched a 52-run stand, off 57 balls for the fourth wicket, but the former missed the sweep against Ravichandran Ashwin and was trapped LBW on the back thigh in front of the stumps, falling for 38 off 35 balls.

At the stroke of lunch, Stokes was trapped LBW for just three as Ravindra Jadeja’s delivery kept low and hit the front pad just above the ankle. Post lunch, Root and Foakes had to play attritional cricket for 16.4 overs of the second session till Root went for a drive off Akash for four and went on to dab through the vacant gully region for another boundary.

Foakes joined the boundary-hitting party by driving Kuldeep Yadav through mid-off and driving against Akash to get two boundaries. Root got his fifty in 108 balls with a single off Ashwin, making this his first Test half-century since hitting 91 during the Ashes at The Oval in July last year.

Root, who shunned the temptation to play sweep or reverse-sweep, went on to time his drive off Kuldeep for a boundary, before punching Ashwin through cover and playing a deft late cut against Jadeja. India went for a review when Jadeja trapped Foakes in front of the wicket with an arm ball, but replays showed the ball was missing stumps as England played out a wicketless session for the first time in the series.

In the final session, after beginning sedately, Foakes went for the aggression by swinging Ashwin over mid-wicket for six and rolling his wrists to sweep and slog-sweep for consecutive fours. But Mohammed Siraj broke the 113-run partnership for the sixth wicket, the highest stand for England in the series, as Foakes chipped to short mid-wicket for 47.

Tom Hartley had some fun by swinging Ashwin for six and edging past second slip for four off Siraj. Mohd Siraj had the last laugh with the beauty of a delivery nipping away and going past the outside edge to crash into the stumps.

Root took a boundary off Akash by squeezing the yorker for four past fine leg and brought up his magnificent century off him with a delightful cover drive going for a boundary.

Robinson had some fun at the fag end of the day by slog-sweeping Kuldeep for six, followed by leaning into the drive off Akash and pulling Yashasvi Jaiswal for two fours to take England past 300 before stumps were called on a day which belonged to Root and the visitors.

Brief scores:

England 302/7 in 90 overs (Joe Root 106 not out, Ben Foakes 47; Akash Deep 3-70, Mohammed Siraj 2-60) against India

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