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NASSER HUSSAIN: This was the day Joe Root confirmed his sporting greatness… but England were able to capitalise on TWO key India mistakes


  • Joe Root reminded us why he is one of the greats on the first day in Ranchi, India 
  • He bounced back from his reverse ramp in Rajkot and judged things perfectly
  • Ben Foakes deserves plaudits as well but India got a couple of things wrong  

I said before this Test that England didn’t need to move away from Bazball – they just needed to be smarter with it. And on the first day in Ranchi, they were very smart indeed.

It wasn’t just the innings of Joe Root and Ben Foakes, though we’ll come to them in a moment. You could also see it in the way the likes of Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow, two players who trust their attack more than their defence, decided their best method on a tricky pitch before lunch was to put the pressure back on the bowlers.

Root, on the other hand, decided to absorb pressure – and England have repeatedly said that is an important facet of the way they play. It’s not all about slogging, despite what people think. And, with Foakes, he helped turn around a precarious 112 for five into a much more healthy 302 for seven by stumps on day one.

Crucially, these are two players who trust their defence more than some of the guys around them, and they played the situation beautifully – which is all Ben Stokes ever asks of his team.

Root judged things perfectly. Make no mistake: he’ll have been stung by the criticism of the reverse ramp that cost him his wicket against Jasprit Bumrah in Rajkot, and you could see the steel in his eyes when he reached his milestones. We’re so used to seeing him play with a smile on his face. Here, it was as if he was sending everyone a message: I’m Joe Root, and I’m one of the greats.

Joe Root judged things perfectly on the first day in Ranchi and proved he is one of the greats

Joe Root judged things perfectly on the first day in Ranchi and proved he is one of the greats

He bounced back from his reverse ramp that cost him his wicket against Jasprit Bumrah

He bounced back from his reverse ramp that cost him his wicket against Jasprit Bumrah 

You don’t score 31 Test hundreds and more than 11,500 runs without the ability to analyse your own game. Before this game, the captain asked for some self-reflection from his team, and Root has been doing that throughout his career.

It’s not just the reverse ramp that will have been on his mind. It has brought him plenty of runs in the last two years, and which I have no doubt he’ll use again when he believes the situation demands it. Mistakes happen all the time in sport: it’s how you react to them that counts.

What will have bothered more is the fact that he didn’t score the runs he’d expect of himself in the first three Tests. And you could see his determination to adapt on a low-bouncing Ranchi pitch, especially after watching Stokes fall to a pea-roller just before lunch.

If he barely swept and reverse-swept, it’s because he decided conditions were not conducive to the shot. Don’t forget: this is one of the greatest players of the sweep shot in England’s history. If he puts the shot away, it’s because he’s worked out that the pitch is not on his side. The dismissal of Bairstow would have reminded him of that too.

The great players find a way, and Root confirmed his greatness here. Foakes was outstanding too, getting fully forward and fully back, and trusting in his defence. He’s been stuck with the tail a couple of times in this series, but you could see how much he enjoyed having Root at the other end, and he got his tempo spot on.

I thought India got a couple of things wrong. This feels like a new-ball pitch to me, and I’d have opened after lunch with one seamer – probably Akash Deep, who bowled so well in the morning – and one spinner. But Rohit Sharma went with two spinners, when the ball was not even 25 overs old.

Ben Foakes was outstanding as well, getting fully forward and fully back, and trusting in his defence

Ben Foakes was outstanding as well, getting fully forward and fully back, and trusting in his defence

India made a couple of errors. Rohit Sharma went with two spinners early on and decline to take the second new ball

India made a couple of errors. Rohit Sharma went with two spinners early on and decline to take the second new ball

Take nothing away from Joe Root. This was the day he reminded us of his sporting greatness

Take nothing away from Joe Root. This was the day he reminded us of his sporting greatness

Then, at the end of the day, with the second new ball available, Rohit declined to take it, when Deep or Mohammed Siraj might have nipped out another wicket or two.

But take nothing away from Root: this was the day he reminded us why, when he eventually walks away from the game, he will be England’s leading Test run-scorer by a country mile.



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