Joe Root’s double century puts England in control against India
Joe Root continued his relentless accumulation of runs in 2021, helping himself to his second double century of the year to give England control of the first Test against India.
Root had already marked his 100th cap in style by reaching three figures on day one in Chennai and made good on his promise not the settle for that.
Fresh from racking up 228 and 186 in the previous two matches against Sri Lanka, Root turned his overnight score of 128 into the fifth double of his career – brought up in style with a handsome blow for six down the ground.
He was eventually undone for 218, helping the tourists to a formidable total of 555 for eight at stumps in 180 overs and counting, lifting his average since he turned 30 in December to 128.80.
Along the way Root has faced 1,384 deliveries, 377 of them across almost nine hours over the past two days, and climbed through England’s all-time scoring ranks as he went.
Five innings ago he sat eighth on the list and now lies third on 8,467, with Alec Stewart the latest famous old name to be usurped,
With England 263 for three overnight Root started the day by slipping into the background, calmly accumulating just 28 runs in the two hours up to lunch as he gave the stage to a returning Ben Stokes and his wonderfully aggressive 82.
Taking guard for the first time since August 8, Stokes narrowly survived a vicious yorker from Jasprit Bumrah on nought before opening his account with a steer to third man and an arcing six over long-off. Back-to-back boundaries off Ishant Sharma before the drinks break worried India captain Virat Kohli enough for him to waste the first of three unsuccessful reviews appealing for lbw off the glove.
With the ball turning and bouncing awkwardly from the left-hander’s rough, Stokes gave up chances on 31 and 32, Ashwin putting down a tough return catch and Cheteshwar Pujara failing to pluck a half-chance out of the air at mid-wicket. Indian briefly thought they had caged the lion, only for the Stokes to chew through bars as his ‘alpha’ side took over.
His next attempt at slog-sweeping Shahbaz Nadeem sailed clean for six and when the left-armer tried to regain control, Stokes had the audacity to reverse sweep successive deliveries out of the footmarks for four.
India spurned a run-out chance when Stokes hurried Root through for a misjudged single but with boundaries continuing to flow from the all-rounder’s bat they could not shift the momentum.
Stokes hit his third six of the day at the start of the afternoon session, pounding Nadeem back over his head but his eagerness to dominate caught up with him.
A top-edged sweep off against Nadeem sailed to Pujara in the deep and although his juggled effort made for a tense moment, he eventually smothered the ball.
Ollie Pope, back after surgery on a dislocated shoulder, eased his nerves with an early four but Root was now ready to take the lead again. One flat blow down the ground almost took the non-striker’s head off and a reverse lap off Washington Sundar showed his creative side.
With regular singles keeping things moving, Root went to 200 with a rare display of power. Committing fully to a big swing at Ashwin, he cleared the boards at long-on to usher in his latest proud landmark.
Of the eight other batsmen to score a ton in their 100th appearance, Inzamam-ul-Haq’s 184 had been the previous best.
Pope’s 34 was a scratchy affair, ended when he played around Ashwin and fell leg before.
Root, who had come to the crease with 63 on the board finally departed the score on 477, finally missing one from Nadeem as he looked to nudge the ball off his pads. He reviewed the lbw decision in vain, taking a moment to accept a handshake from opposite number Kohli as he left.
Jos Buttler guided England past 300 without ever looking fully secure and lost his off stump shouldering arms to Ishant Sharma. The veteran seamer had sent down 23 overs without success but then made it two in two, cleaning up Jofra Archer first ball.
Jack Leach negotiated the hat-trick ball and went on to add 30 with Dom Bess (28 not out), the latter benefitting from tired minds in the field as Rohit Sharma grassed a comically easy catch.
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