New Delhi: England captain Joe Root’s third hundred in as many Tests against India took his side closer to a series-levelling win at the Yorkshire batsman’s Headingley home ground on Thursday.
Root’s 121 – his third century in as many matches this series – was the centrepiece of England’s 423/8 at stumps on the second day of the third Test as they established a huge first-innings lead of 345 after dismissing India for just 78 on Wednesday.
His latest hundred saw Root join Denis Compton (1947) and Michael Vaughan (2002) as the only England batsmen to score six Test centuries in a calendar year, with the all-time record of nine, set by Pakistan’s Mohammed Yousuf in 2006, now in his sights.
And on a day when England mourned the death of former captain Ted Dexter, one of their most stylish batsmen, at the age of 86, Root’s 23rd Test century featured several textbook shots that would have met with the approval of ‘Lord Ted’.
With openers Rory Burns (61) and Haseeb Hameed (68), as well as recalled No 3 Dawid Malan (70) making half-centuries, this was the first time all of England’s top four had made a fifty in the same Test innings since a match against New Zealand at Dunedin in 2013.
England’s lack of top-order runs had been so acute they’ve failed to reach 50 before losing their second wicket 16 times in 20 Test innings this year.
But Wednesday saw Root walk into bat with England well-placed at 159-2.
England resumed on 120-0, after veteran spearhead James Anderson had ripped through India’s top order during a return of 3-6 in eight overs to spark a dramatic collapse.
Burns was then 52 not out and Hameed 60 not out.
England’s 22nd opening partnership since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012 were separated, however, before lunch.
Left-hander Burns had added just nine runs when he was bowled playing down the wrong line to Mohammed Shami, with England now 135-1.
New batsman Malan, recalled after England dropped the struggling Dom Sibley, got off the mark with a cover-driven boundary off Jasprit Bumrah and followed that shot up with two more fours off Mohammed Siraj.
Hameed, promoted to open in place of Sibley after his five-year exile from Test cricket ended with him managing just nine runs in total at Lord’s, had added just eight runs to his overnight and spent 28 deliveries on 68 when he was bowled by a sharply turning delivery from left-armer Ravindra Jadeja that saw the left-armer – the first wicket taken by an Indian spinner this series.
Root, who made 109 in the drawn opener at Trent Bridge and a brilliant 180 not out during India’s 151-run win in the second Test at Lord’s, looked in excellent touch when guiding Shami for two fours in three balls behind square on the offside.
After India took the new ball, Root went to fifty in style with a back-foot forcing shot off Shami through point for four – his seventh boundary in 57 balls faced.
Malan then square-cut a four off Shami to go to 49 before a single off the paceman saw him to a 99-ball fifty including eight boundaries.
He was, however, caught behind off Mohammed Siraj with the last ball before tea to leave England 298-3.
Root, in front of a crowd of 16,721 that included his parents, was in complete control as he completed a hundred in just 124 balls when he clipped the tiring Ishant Sharma to the midwicket boundary for his 12th four.
It was something of a surprise when he was bowled between bat and pad trying to drive Bumrah.
Root received a rapturous reception from the Headingley faithful as he walked back into the pavilion, with only Alastair Cook (33), Root’s predecessor as captain, having made more Test centuries for England.
England lost several more wickets late in the day but such was their lead it scarcely mattered.