Masterful Root Hundred gathers England in Ranchi

England 302-7: Root 106*, Foakes 47; Low 3-70
India: Still to beat

Joe Root returned to form when England needed him most with a masterful century on the first day of the fourth Test against India in Ranchi.

Short of runs and at the center of a debate over his approach to batting, Root played a classic Test innings to keep the tourists in the series.

On a breathless morning, England were reduced to 112-5 by excellent Indian bowling in extremely difficult conditions.

Akash Deep bowled with venom for three wickets on his debut and Ben Stokes was helpless to a delivery that Ravindra Jadeja managed to skim across the ground.

But Root mastered the conditions and showed patience, determination and supreme skill to make his 106 not out.

By the end he had led England to a very strong score of 302-7 and was looking to level the series at 2-2.

Root added 113 for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes making a priceless 47, and then another 57 with the recalled Ollie Robinson, who accompanied Root to triple figures in his unbeaten 31.

When Root took deep to four, he reached his hundred in 219 deliveries, the slowest of any English batsman since captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took charge.

For England it was a fantastic end to a day that began with the sensational strike Rehan Ahmed has returned home because of an urgent family matter.

England left the room to stay in the series

England were criticized after their massive 434-run defeat in the third test, Some accused them of being too cavalier and not adapting properly to the nuances of Test cricket.

It would be harsh to blame them for the situation they found themselves in at lunch. Yes, they scored almost five an over in the morning, but only Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow were in attack.

India took advantage of the conditions, perhaps helped by the moisture in the surface and the hardness of the new ball. As the pitch dried and the ball softened, the shots subsided, but that doesn’t change the way Root and Foakes interpret the situation.

Their team was England’s slowest over 100 in the Stokes-McCullum era with 113 from 261 balls. The 86 runs at 2.33 runs per over that they scored between lunch and tea was England’s slowest scoring session in the same two years.

The praise for England’s decisive action in Ranchi is not a criticism of England’s penchant for aggressiveness. There is a time and a place for both, and this is where England have shown their flexibility.

Only time will tell whether their efforts on day one will be enough to force a fifth Test decider, but the deciding toss has left India facing the prospect of batting last on a pitch that will prove fiendishly difficult to bat on could.

Back in the runs

Root’s highest score of 37 in six innings this tour was his longest run without a half-century in two years. More worrying was the manner of his dismissals: a wild hit in the second innings of the second Test, then a reverse to Jasprit Bumrah in the first innings of the third.

Whether Root had already decided to change his approach or had simply adapted to the situation, he was flawless. The former captain’s defense was impeccable and he used the sweep and reverse sweep sparingly.

Root played smooth slides to the third-man boundary and only scored his first four off the pitch after the 126th delivery he faced. There was never any evidence of an inverted scoop.

Reliable support came from Foakes, who was just coming through the gears, taking 16 – including a six – from Ravichandran Ashwin when he brought Mohammad Siraj short at mid-wicket.

India were unable to call on Root’s nemesis, the rested Bumrah, and the frustrated hosts had exhausted all their criticisms when Robinson was tied for eight by Jadeja, with replays showing the ball would have hit the stumps.

Root’s celebration of his 31st Test hundred was muted but was greeted with joy by Stokes. He will return on Saturday and have the opportunity to put further pressure on the home team.

Big trouble on a breathless morning

The attention on the field before the game suggested that there would be fireworks in Ranchi. Whether it was the conditions, the brilliance of Deep or a combination of both, a captivating first morning did not disappoint.

In the first over Siraj delivered, Zak Crawley had to fend off one of his opponents and watch as another held back. Deep hammered a consistent length and brought the ball snappy back to the right-hander.

Crawley suffered several hits and was bowled by a deep no-ball before launching an outstanding stroke play. At one point he followed three consecutive fours off Siraj with an astonishing whip for six over long-ons.

Deep held his nerve. Ben Duckett pushed a ball that left him, Pope got to his second ball and was ahead by a very good margin. Root survived a setback off his first ball and Crawley was bowled out on 42 as deep produced a replica of the earlier no-ball.

Bairstow noticed Crawley’s aggression and seemed to find a form of his own. He defeated Ashwin by six shots but then fell for 38 at review when he attempted a similar shot to the same bowler.

When Stokes gave Jadeja’s shooter an lbw shot – the ball didn’t reach above ankle height – it spelled trouble for England and the batsmen for the rest of the game. Then came the root masterclass.

“This could be a game-winning inning” – reaction

England opener Zak Crawley speaks to TNT Sports about Joe Root: “We are so happy for him and never doubted him.

“If anything, we know there’s an even greater chance of him scoring some low points, and that’s what we expected from him.”

“I said before that with a score of 280:300 we are in a very good starting position, so I’m sticking with it – we’re ahead.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “A really good day for England and a masterful hundred from England’s best player Joe Root. This was the day England played the situation perfectly.”

Former England spinner Phil Tufnell: “This could be a game-winning innings from Joe Root. England achieved a good score through their determination, effort and skill.”

“It was a classic Joe Root innings.”

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