After a highly clinical performance on Day 1, England, powered by Joe Root’s 23rd Test hundred - his third of the series, further consolidated their hold on the ongoing third Test at Headingley, on Thursday. The hosts ended the day at 423/8, 345 ahead of India in their first innings.
Malan makes a mark
Dawid Malan’s call-up in the build-up to Headingley did raise a few eyebrows, for he had last played a Test three years ago. The 33-year-old catapulted his status in the game’s shortest version in the period, rising to the top of T20I batting rankings, while batting at No.3 for England.
His Test recall though, came on the back of a match-winning 199 for Yorkshire against Sussex in a County Championship fixture at Headingley in June. His previous first-class innings came at the same venue last year - a brisk 219 against Derbyshire during the Bob Willis Trophy.
Back to Leeds, donning England colours for the first time since the Edgbaston Test against India in 2018, the left-hander displayed great patience and application, compiling a neat 70 on Thursday. A feature of his innings - the first at No.3 in Tests - was the ability to play late, striking boundaries behind square on the off-side against anything short and wide.
Malan’s Test career thus far has blown more cold than hot - his 140 at the WACA, Perth during the 2017-18 Ashes series - being the lone highlight. With England’s recent top-order struggles, the comeback might’ve just been timed perfectly, with the Ashes tour Down Under less than four months away.
The unconquerable Joe Root
Riding high after centuries in the first two Tests of the ongoing series, not to forget his monumental 228, 186 and 218 earlier this year, Joe Root extended his glorious run at Headingley to register his 23rd hundred in Test cricket.
At Trent Bridge and Lord’s, walking in at the fall of the second wicket at 42, 46, 23 and 0 respectively, it all hinged on him to rise in adversaries, much like has been the case throughout the year. He succeeded on the first three occasions, the lone sub-64 score coming during the dramatic collapse at Lord’s.
At Headingley, when the opportunity presented itself to build on, with his team at 159/2 - 81 ahead of India - Root adopted a highly steady approach, racing to his fifty off mere 57 balls. The frequent rotation of strike and timely boundaries continued to frustrate India, as the England skipper rode his way to his 23rd Test century, reaching the mark with a firm push towards the wide long-on boundary.
He now has 1,398 runs in 2021 - a staggering 689 more than anyone else. He now becomes the third Englishman to register six Test hundreds in a calendar year, alongside Denis Compton (1947) and Michael Vaughan (2002). His eight Test hundreds against India is now a joint record, alongside Sir Garfield Sobers, Viv Richards, Ricky Ponting and Steven Smith.
India’s hard toil
On a rather dispirited day, India’s bowling collectively failed to challenge the opposition - a rare occurrence in recent years. Mohammed Shami managed to break through early in the day, castling Rory Burns, while Ravindra Jadeja lulled a well set Haseeb Hameed to play the wrong line an hour later. The two dismissals however, were no more than a minor blip for England, on a day which might’ve put the series right in balance.
Hameed’s dismissal, and a few other good length balls from Jadeja did present some alarming signs, but the inconsistent pitching and Joe Root’s continual brilliance kept the hosts at bay.
Very little movement this morning for India, just 1.0° of combined swing and seam.— The CricViz Analyst (@cricvizanalyst) August 26, 2021
To put this into perspective, England's pace bowlers found 2.4° average combined swing and seam through their innings yesterday. #ENGvIND
The tactics were debatable too, with Sunil Gavaskar and Sanjay Manjrekar pointing out on air about the move to start with Ishant Sharma on both days, after Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami had delivered the goods in the fourth innings at Lord’s.
India conceded 116 runs from 26 overs at 4.46 rpo in the second session, the lone wicket coming off a loosener down leg. The visitors tried the short-ball ploy with packed fields on the leg-side, only to come second best to the Malan-Root pair. While the final session did fetch them five wickets, England managed to add another 125, to take the game further away from India’s grasp.