England 263 for 3 (Sibley 87, Root 128*) vs India
After Sibley had laid a foundation with Rory Burns, England lost two wickets in quick succession before lunch and appeared to have let their strong start slip. But Root, in the 100th Test of his career, continued from where he had left off in Sri Lanka as he eased through the gears to reach his 20th hundred, and his third in as many matches this year.
India’s bowlers toiled hard for little reward throughout the afternoon and evening sessions, as Root swept, flicked and punched them round the ground while Sibley ground them down with an old-school rearguard. Despite Jasprit Bumrah‘s breakthrough with the last ball of the day, trapping Sibley lbw for 87 with a fast, inswinging yorker, England were in the box seat at the close.
Root had no hesitation in choosing to bat after winning the toss, and Virat Kohli admitted that he would have done the same on a pitch that looked flat from the start. Axar Patel’s knee injury meant that Shahbaz Nadeem played as the left-arm spinner, while Washington Sundar retained his spot at No. 7 as India opted for three fingerspinners rather than a third seamer or Kuldeep Yadav’s wristspin. For England, Dom Bess retained his place ahead of Moeen Ali, while James Anderson was picked over Stuart Broad.
Having missed the famous win at the Gabba through injury, Bumrah returned to play his first home Test, more than three years after his debut, and created a chance with the first ball he bowled. Angling the ball into the left-hander from round the wicket, he drew a tickle as Burns shaped to work to leg, but Rishabh Pant put down the chance diving to his right.
Sibley and Burns built steadily, getting through the first hour unscathed, successfully seeing off the new ball and coping with R Ashwin’s threat after his early introduction into the attack. But as Burns grew in confidence, he began to display his vulnerabilities, exposing his stumps when lunging across to sweep Ashwin from round the wicket.
He then skipped down the pitch to clip him effortlessly through midwicket for four as lunch approached, which caused Ashwin to change his line of attack and look to push the ball across him from over the wicket. The ploy succeeded almost instantly: in an attempt to throw Ashwin off the scent, Burns brought out the reverse-sweep to the fifth ball of the over, but was through the shot early. The ball looped up off his glove and into Pant’s hands, and Burns was visibly frustrated with his decision-making as he trudged off.
As is so often the case when India play at home, the first breakthrough brought a second soon after. Dan Lawrence, batting out of position at No. 3 after Zak Crawley’s freak injury, was pinned lbw for a fifth-ball duck, looking to swipe Bumrah into the leg side. Kohli deserved credit for the call to take Ashwin out of the attack straight after his wicket, and Lawrence barely even considered a review.
At 63 for 2, England looked vulnerable, not least when Root miscued into the covers via a leading edge as Ashwin found some drift before setting off for a very tight single three balls later in the over before lunch. India did their best to turn the screw after lunch, with Ishant, Bumrah and Ashwin keeping the rate in check for the best part of an hour and both seamers managing to extract some reverse swing.
But having eschewed the sweep for the first 50 balls of his innings, Root immediately brought it out against Sundar when he was introduced mid-afternoon, and looked to dominate against the weaker links in the attack. Root had been watchful in reaching 12 off 54 balls but was soon skipping down the pitch and reverse-sweeping at will, with Nadeem and Sundar bearing the brunt of his aggression.
Bell: We’ve seen the best version of Sibley
Sibley too grew in confidence, looking like a completely different batsman to the one who had made six runs in his first three innings in Sri Lanka last month. He brought up a 158-ball half-century with a back-foot punch through the covers off Ashwin, which exemplified the confidence that he displayed after lunch, though he was characteristically strongest through midwicket.
Kohli desperately missed the injured Ravindra Jadeja, whose containing lines and lengths would have been well-suited to the situations in forcing England’s batsmen to play. Instead, Root passed 50 soon after tea and settled into his fluent fourth gear, rotating the strike at will. A crisp, compact punch through the covers off Bumrah was the pick of his shots.
India looked increasingly weary in the field as they held out for the new ball, conceding a boundary almost every over as Root cruised towards a third ton in as many Tests. He reached the landmark with a nudge behind square off Sundar, becoming the ninth man to score a hundred in their 100th Test.
Both men remained watchful after the new ball was taken, though Root slog-swept Ashwin over midwicket for the only six of the day, cramping up in the process. Bumrah’s effort was rewarded in his final over as he pinned Sibley, playing around front his pad, in front of leg stump, but it did not take the shine off England’s day.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98