INDIA VS ENGLAND | The Wrap Up - 1st Test, Day 2
England were nicely positioned on 263-3 at the end of day 1, ready to press home an early advantage in Chennai on a docile surface. Here's The Wrap Up from Day 2:
Proactivity against spin pays off
India’s success in Australia was in a large part due to the way they dismantled Nathan Lyon, preventing a build up of pressure with the use of footwork and intelligent shot selection. It is exactly that effective game plan which has propelled England into the position they are in.
You would scarcely have known that Ben Stokes hasn't played a Test since August the way he went about his business on day 2. Although he rode his luck out of the rough at times, he countered with aplomb, taking a liking to Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar in particular. He was more watchful against Ravichandran Ashwin given previous foibles, but he proved clarity of mind in doing so. He was clear on who he was targeting and used the slog sweep to good effect.
Speaking of the sweep, Joe Root has now scored more runs sweeping (including slog and reverse) in Tests than another other batsman since shot records began in 2006. We are beginning to sound like a broken record fetishising Root’s use of the shot but it is true mastery. Coupled with his use of nimble footwork and general length recognition, he is a thorn in India’s deflated bowling side.
Root on top
Sweeps aside, the ability, concentration and fitness required to bat for a day and a half in the sub-continent cannot be underestimated. He changed roles throughout the day, happy to take the back seat as Stokes bludgeoned and maintained the tempo with some snappy running between the wickets with Ollie Pope when the youngster came in. His 213 is the highest score by any England player in India.
At risk of trivialising Root's ability with statistics, his average has ticked to over 50, the best of any batsmen in England's top ten run scorers, having averaged 47.99 at the beginning of the year. In terms of longevity, Root has now scored 50+ in 37.9% of his Test innings.
It was a better display from India on another tough day. Sundar bowled with a consistency that he lacked yesterday, and Ashwin looked threatening with his variations. They halted the momentum stimulated by Stokes and Root, and did well to take the sting out of what could have been a terrible day for India.
Interestingly, Bumrah and Ishant Sharma exploited reverse swing well towards the end of the day, summed up by the dismissal of Jos Buttler who saw his off stump uprooted as he shouldered-arms. Given how quickly the ball has turned old on this surface, Stokes, England most preeminent reverse swinger, will have a big part to play with the ball. It will be interesting to see what Jofra Archer can exploit from an up-to-now turgid pitch.
Anything is possible
Clearly, England are still gloriously positioned well at 555-8. The handy 9th wicket stand between Dom Bess and Jack Leach has, though, made the draw the most likely outcome, as the spin pair have eaten up time in their efforts to pull England to their 600 run target. It may be a tall ask for England to take 20 wickets in the time remaining once they are dismissed, particularly given the pitch is still only showing small signs of ill behaviour. Indian fans will be savouring memories of Chennai 2016 in the hope of pulling off a miracle, but, in any case, will be hoping that they can at least manage a draw with their batting line up.
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