Root keeps India at bay

Joe Root en route to his half-century against India on Wednesday.

Mohammed Shami produced a fantastic burst of pace bowling but India’s familiar foe Joe Root once again proved to be a thorn in their flesh as the opening Test got off to an interesting start here on Wednesday.

Shami, swinging the ball both ways in speeds in excess of 140 kmph consistently, prised out the wickets of plucky opener Keaton Jennings and Dawid Malan in a superb post-lunch spell of 4-1-10–2 to hand India the initiative following a disappointing opening session.

Root (65 batting, 139b, 7x4), however, led from the front, hammering his 12th consecutive fifty against the visitors as England reached 163/3 at tea on the opening day at Edgbaston. Chancy Jonny Bairstow made things easy for his skipper too in bright sunshine, hitting a brisk 27, often throwing caution to the wind, irritating the Indians.

The visitors, asked to bowl first on an Edgbaston track that appears friendly towards batsmen, made a bright start when off-spinner R Ashwin castled Alastair Cook with a peach after opening pacers Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma bowled a probing spell.

Introduced as early as in the seventh over, Ashwin made an instant impact with a superb piece of bowling. Giving the ball a fine loop and inducing both Keaton Jennings and Cook onto the front foot repeatedly, Ashwin caused a lot of discomfort in the minds of the openers. One such indecision cost Cook his wicket. Ashwin brought Cook onto the front-foot with a nice loopy delivery that pitched on the middle stump. Cook, playing the wrong line, completely missed it only to see the ball crash onto his off stump.

Thereafter though, the Indians were patchy. While Shami was brilliant all day, often troubling the batsmen with his movement, Umesh wavered after his first spell. Whenever he tried to swing the ball into the left-handed Jennings, he went too far leg-side and that was easy pickings for the youngster. And when he tried to keep the off-stump line, he was way off target.

India struggled to create pressure from both ends -- a factor that is very crucial especially on wickets that don’t offer much help. England motored on nicely to lunch and it looked like Jennings, dropped on 9 by Ajinkya Rahane at fourth slip, and Root would make them pay.

But Shami hauled them with a superb display of swing bowling. In the very first ball of his second spell, he dismissed Jennings with a short of a length ball which took an inside edge before ricocheting off the batsman’s pads onto the stumps. Shami then trapped Malan with a brilliant in-swinging delivery that caught the batsman on the back foot.

At 112/3, India were on the ascendancy and Virat Kohli stepped on the attack. But, Root, who has always scored at least a fifty whenever he has batted against India, kept them at bay in a display of batting that was classical Test style. He bided his time, attacked the balls that were in his comfort zone and left the ones that were dangerous. India also appeared clueless on what lines they wanted to bowl to him. Root went past 6000 Test runs, the third youngest to do so, while Bairstow attacked nicely at the other end to keep the Indians in check.

 

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Root keeps India at bay

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