England captain Joe Root reeled off another superb century to crown his 100th Test appearance a la mode on day one among his side’s series opener against India as his team reached 263-3 on a dominant opening day for the tourists.
Root received his milestone appearance in wonderful form, with masterful knocks of 228 and 186 in his previous two outings against Sri Lanka, and he was untouchable another time as he rose to the occasion. Only nine other men in history have chalked up such an achievement, with Root following within the footsteps of fellow Englishmen Sir Colin Cowdrey and Alec Stewart. That the special moment arrived during a deserted stadium, thanks to unavoidable Covid restrictions, was a shame but one that was easily mitigated by the very fact that it unfolded on free-to-air television.
With Channel 4 returning to the Test cricket fray for the primary time since the 2005 Ashes, this was Root’s first-ever innings ahead of a terrestrial audience and therefore the 30-year-old put his best foot forward for any newcomers. Both sides were keen to form first use of what was widely expected to be the simplest batting conditions of the match, but it had been Root who called correctly.
A minor miscalculation almost saw Rory Burns fall at the beginning of the second over, stepping across his stumps and flicking fine around the pad just for Rishabh Pant to let the half-chance slip. The wicketkeeper’s glovework is under near-constant scrutiny in India and an early blemish, regardless of how tough, won’t have helped.
That proved a solitary scare within the opening 90 minutes, with England happy to take a seat in on a flat surface. The runs trickled instead of flowed, but Sibley was reassuringly secure after his struggles against spin in Sri Lanka decided in defense on the front foot and when the prospect came to attain he did steering Ravichandran Ashwin to 3rd man for four, pushing him through mid-wicket for an additional and later cutting a brief one from Shahbaz Nadeem. While he showed no inclination to travel quickly – reaching lunch with just 26 to his name – Burns decided to form his move within the 24th over, flipping the bat and swishing in cavalier fashion during a bid to open up the sector. Instead, the ball looped off his front hand and straight to Pant. it had been an aberration of an attempt in conditions that reward patience and certainty.
With Jonny Bairstow back range in Yorkshire on a period of rest and Zak Crawley injured after slipping on a marble floor earlier in the week, it fell to Dan Lawrence to occupy the amount three positions. it’s one he has rarely filled at the county level and proved too great an ask here, as an enormous slice of reverse swing from Jasprit Bumrah had the Essex prospect plumb lbw for naught.
Root contrived to involve himself during a run-out scare moments before lunch, underlining the growing unease, and would are happy to succeed in the break without further damage at 67 for 2. Sibley picked his moments to satisfy the pitch of the ball, working around his front pad to select gaps at mid-wicket and crunching one full-blooded sweep. one got him to a well-earned 50, with Root catching up quickly as he lashed Ashwin for successive boundaries on either side of the wicket.
The evening session belonged to Root, who raced beyond Sibley’s score and kept progressing through the gears. The sweep shots he relied on in Galle last month called at force now, hammered ahead of the square, or tickled fine because the ball demanded. Rarely, if ever, did contact come from anywhere aside from the center of the bat.
India finally parted England’s third-wicket pair within the final over of the day, Bumrah trapping Sibley lbw to finish his masterclass of concentration. He had made 87 in 286 deliveries, leaving Root (128no) to start out again on day two on 263 for 3.