‘Masterful’ Root rescues England after early wickets

Published February 24, 2024
ENGLAND batter Joe Root plays a shot as Indian wicket-keeper Dhruv Jurel looks on during the fourth Test at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium on Friday.—AFP
ENGLAND batter Joe Root plays a shot as Indian wicket-keeper Dhruv Jurel looks on during the fourth Test at the Jharkhand State Cricket Association Stadium on Friday.—AFP

RANCHI: Joe Root hit an unbeaten 106 to lead England’s recovery from early trouble after Indian fast bowler Akash Deep took three wickets on debut in the fourth Test on Friday.

England, who are fighting to stay alive at 2-1 down in the five-match series, reached stumps at 302-7 after electing to bat first in Ranchi.

The tourists slipped to 112-5 but Root, with just 77 runs over his previous six innings, found his form to put on a 113-run stand with wicket-keeper/batter Ben Foakes, who made 47.

Mohammed Siraj broke the partnership with the wicket of Foakes but former captain Root stood firm and had Ollie Robinson, on 31, for company in an unbeaten stand of 57 at the close of play.

Opener Zak Crawley described Root’s spell at the crease as “unbelievable”.

“We fully expected him to get a good score at some point in this series,” he said. “He was due, he’s the best player we’ve ever had and he played phenomenally today.”

Root’s own dismissal in Rajkot — playing a reverse scoop against Jasprit Bumrah — was seen as symptomatic of what is wrong with England’s ultra-aggressive batting.

The veteran batsman reached his hundred with a boundary off Deep and then took off his helmet and raised his bat to a standing ovation from the England players and fans.

Root and Foakes kept calm in an uncharacteristically patient show of batting by England, a temporary departure from their attacking “Bazball” style, which denied India a wicket in the afternoon session.

Siraj was brought back into the attack after tea and the pace spearhead swung the ball to get Foakes caught at mid-wicket before bowling Tom Hartley for 13.

Root ploughed on with just nine boundaries in his 226-ball stay to give his team a much-needed boost on a cracked pitch expected to turn more.

The 27-year-old Deep shone as a replacement for Bumrah, who has been rested, and had a scintillating start after getting his first Test cap from coach Rahul Dravid.

“I wasn’t nervous, had spoken with my coaches, so I wasn’t tense ahead of the game,” Deep, who received his cap in the morning with his mother on the sidelines, said on TV.

“Brother Bumrah advised me to drag the length back slightly, that’s exactly what I did.”

Deep thought he had got Crawley on four only to overstep the crease for a no-ball. Crawley, who went on to make 42, counter-attacked and hammered Siraj for four straight boundaries, including three fours and a six.

Deep, who hails from a small village in Bihar and plays domestic cricket for neighbouring state side Bengal, got his first international wicket when Ben Duckett was caught behind for 11.

He struck again two balls later to trap Ollie Pope lbw for a duck, a decision denied by the on-field umpire but successfully reviewed by India after the tracker showed the ball would have hit the top of leg stump.

Deep then bowled Crawley with another beauty that darted in to the opener and rattled the stumps, as England slipped to 57-3 in only the first hour of play.

Root and Jonny Bairstow put together 52 runs before Ravichandran Ashwin had Bairstow lbw on 38 in another successful Indian review.

Skipper Ben Stokes was trapped lbw by Ravindra Jadeja for three on the stroke of lunch to leave England in serious trouble.

SCOREBOARD

ENGLAND (1st Innings):

Z. Crawley b Deep 42

B. Duckett c Jurel b Deep 11

O. Pope lbw b Deep 0

J. Root not out 106

J. Bairstow lbw b Ashwin 38

B. Stokes lbw b Jadeja 3

B. Foakes c Jadeja b Siraj 47

T. Hartley b Siraj 13

O. Robinson not out 31

EXTRAS (B-1, LB-6, NB-4) 11

TOTAL (for seven wickets, 90 overs) 302

STILL TO BAT: S. Bashir, J. Anderson

FALL OF WICKETS: 1-47 (Duckett), 2-47 (Pope), 3-57 (Crawley), 4-109 (Bairstow), 5-112 (Stokes), 6-225 (Foakes), 7-245 (Hartley) BOWLING: Siraj 13-3-60-2, Deep 17-0-70-3 (3nb), Jadeja 27-7-55-1 (1nb), Ashwin 22-1-83-1, Kuldeep 10-3-21-0, Jaiswal 1-0-6-0

TOSS: England

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2024

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