CHENNAI: At the start of Day 2 at Headingley, there were likely to be only two ways the day’s proceedings could unfold after England’s complete dominance on the opening day. India had to either keep taking wickets at regular intervals in the opening session to get back into the contest or resign themselves to the forlorn thought of England piling up a truckload of runs. Much to India’s chagrin, it was the latter that transpired, resulting in one of those weary days in the field with Virat Kohli’s boys waiting for the inevitable. Nothing was going to be more inevitable than a century from the blade of Joe Root (121).
In front of his cheering home crowd, Root's purple patch took a brighter hue as he hit his 23rd Test hundred and the sixth of this calendar year. At stumps, England were sitting comfortably on 423/8 with an enormous lead of 345 runs.
It was a thoroughly dominant display by Root, taking just 123 balls to reach the three-figure mark with a stylish flick of the wrists through mid-on. A 139-run partnership with Dawid Malan, who scored 70, ensured that the good work of the English openers wasn't squandered.
Mohammed Shami did remove Rory Burns with a nip-backer that breached the left-hander's defence in the eighth over of the day, but that wasn't going to be enough to press the England dressing room into uncertainty. The Indian seamers had found lesser movement than their English counterparts on the first day — the pitch had eased out by the time England started batting according to data from CricViz — and it was a similar story on Thursday. A consequence of that perhaps was that the Indian bowlers weren’t able to bowl the fuller lengths that the English bowlers employed to great effect. With the game situation also against the Indians, it meant that the attack looked rather pedestrian.
Only one other wicket fell in the opening session, with Ravindra Jadeja getting one to grip ever so slightly on the surface even as Haseeb Hameed played inside the line and found his off-stump disturbed. But such moments of joy were few and far between for the visitors. At other times, they largely saw the ball ping off Root's bat. The returning Malan, playing a Test after three years, couldn't have timed his comeback better either. With a sizeable lead already and an in-form skipper for company, Malan made the most of the circumstances. Both Root and Malan are very familiar with the surroundings at Headingley, of course, given that they play first-class cricket for Yorkshire.
Ishant Sharma hadn’t looked in great rhythm on Wednesday and continued to struggle for the second day in succession. He was conceding runs at more than four runs an over, which must be worrying him given his impeccable control in recent years. Even when he doesn’t strike regularly, one of his biggest strengths is his ability to choke the scoring and allow the other bowlers to capitalise. That wasn’t on witness at Headingley.