India’s highest successful fourth innings in England is 174/6, at The Oval in 1971. The highest successful chase by a visiting team in England in the last 10 years is 322/5 by West Indies at Leeds in 2017. Needing 209 to win the first Test in Nottingham, India ended Day 4 on 52/1, still 157 runs off target. Winning from here looks likely but there is a question mark on the India middle-order that has averaged 26.09 and 28.71 in 2020 and 2021 respectively, the lowest in the last 10 years. Virat Kohli will back himself irrespective of his recent scores. But Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane have looked too shaky at times to inspire the same confidence.
What should comfort India is their relative batting depth that hasn’t compromised on their bowling impregnability. Jasprit Bumrah is back to his best, taking 5/64 and leading a fine show that saw the fast bowlers take all 20 wickets in a Test after Johannesburg in 2018. All India now need is to follow up on their bowlers’ performance with assured batting. And if they want some inspiration on how to go about this chase, they need not look beyond Joe Root.
The fact that no England captain has scored fifties in both innings of a Nottingham Test before this says a lot about Root’s character in the face of adversity. England were trailing by 49 when Root came in to bat. By the time he departed after trying to steer Bumrah, England were sitting on a handsome lead of 179. In the process, Root not only carved a scintillating century but was also instrumental in anchoring five partnerships that took England to a position of relative safety. Where Root really impressed was in seamlessly slipping in and out of his aggressor mode. As long as Dom Sibley kept things quiet at the other end, Root took the attack to India, scoring eight boundaries en route to a 68-ball fifty.
Sibley’s dismissal prompted Root to switch roles with Jonny Bairstow, who despite looking ominous in a 42-run partnership, fell to a swat off Mohammed Siraj that went down Ravindra Jadeja’s throat at deep square-leg. Dan Lawrence was trapped leg-before by Shardul Thakur who took two deliveries – one of which was clipped off the pads for a boundary – to correct his line and pitch one straight and just short of length. Jos Buttler too stepped on the gas and hit a flurry of boundaries before being dismissed for 17 but Root was the only Englishman to calmly play according to the situation – defending, cutting, opening the face of the bat to run the ball behind point and punish every half volley with a crunching drive. He was in imperious form but the pitch has also flattened out enough to assist any batsman willing to give it time. If this year has been any indication, India definitely have it in them to pull off any chase. All they need is to draw on that experience in a different country.1st Test: Bumrah five-for leaves India chasing win after brilliant Root century
Source: Hindustan Times