On Day 1, all chatter was about how England erred in their team selection by going with a solitary spinner in the form of Jack Leach. Well, it turns out, a fair few people forgot just how lethal Joe Root could be. Doubt his quality? Well, just ask Sundar - he will tell you just how good Root is.
Getting bowled out for 112 on a turning track left England in shambles, but what concerned them more was the fact that they boasted of a solitary spinner in the form of Jack Leach. They had opted for a three-seamer attack and that Leach - ironically, if not expectedly - turned out to be their best bowler on the first day, picking two wickets, left them in a ‘what could have been’ state of mind. This state of mind, however, only lasted until the first hour of Day 2. For, on the 42nd over of the day, England realized that they had their very own Axar in the form of Joe Root.
Bowling for the first time in the game, Root struck on his very first ball of the match, dismissing danger-man Rishabh Pant with a sharply-turning off-break that took the outside edge of the southpaw. This was a phenomenal result for England and Root per se, but, incredibly, somehow, 11 balls later, the England skipper produced magic that bettered Pant’s dismissal.
After dismissing Pant, Root got to bowl to another southpaw, Washington Sundar, and the off-spinner used the opportunity to build pressure. With his round-arm angle, bowling at optimum pace, the 30-year-old bowled 11 consecutive dots to Sundar. The general consensus was that Sundar was just biding his time by surviving, and ‘measuring’ Root. Well, the consensus couldn’t have been farther from reality.
On his 12th ball to the southpaw, the England skipper produced a delivery worthy of being called the “ball of the series’. Going wide of the crease from around the wicket, Root angled the ball into Sundar and landed the delivery at a good length. Not expecting prodigious turn, the batsman played the line of the ball and lunged on his front foot to defend it, but, remarkably, the ball ended up turning sharply and rattling the off-stump. It was a near-perfect delivery that many would call a ‘dream-ball’ for an off-spinner, and, unsurprisingly, Root and England went into wild celebration.
However, more than the actual delivery, it was the reaction of the batsman, Sundar, that perfectly captured the moment. In absolute disbelief that the ball had rattled the stumps, Sundar stared at the pitch for a good few seconds, refusing to leave the wicket. It was only after staring up and down a half-a-dozen times he’d realized what Root had just done. Lesson learnt - never underestimate Joettiah Rootlitharan.