England vs India – 4th Test, Day 1 – Root Was Right

Sport is dominated by an almost slavish devotion to ‘conventional wisdom’. The reason seems fairly clear: No one ever got fired as a coach or captain for making the same choices as the majority of fans and your predecessors did. Any decisions which goes against the status quo, of how things are done, are always seen as a risk where you alone bear responsibility for the consequences. The overwhelming consensus was that everyone bats first at the Oval, given the choice, but Joe Root instead opted to field first. And, if you look at how today went, he was right to do so.

Which isn’t to say the day went wholly England’s way. The first half hour was very quiet, with India’s openers seemingly handling Anderson and Robinson with ease. At that point, several people were already starting to question Root’s decision to bat first. It wasn’t until Woakes replaced Anderson that the ball really started swinging (not something you often say about Anderson) and the Indian batters started struggling. India’s top three fell in just a few overs leading India to take the unusual position of promoting their typical number seven, Ravindra Jadeja, to five. There was speculation from the commentators that this was to disrupt England’s bowling with a left-right batting partnership, whilst people online joked that he was acting as a nightwatchman whose job was to protect Kohli and Rahane from the swinging ball. Of the two theories, I think I might favour the latter. He certainly seemed to be farming the strike away from Virat Kohli, which is another thing I wasn’t expecting to write at the start of the day.

The afternoon session began with Joe Root dropping a sharp chance at first slip, which was something of a theme for the day. England dropped the ball four times in the innings, adding perhaps another fifty runs onto India’s total. It doesn’t seem like much in that context, just over ten runs per drop, but this match has all the hallmarks of a low-scoring contest where every run counts. Gifting runs, and more time in the middle for Virat Kohli to rediscover his form, is not something which should be tolerated by England. Kohli and Rahane batted out most of the session, before a burst of wickets blew through the Indian middle order and exposed their long and fragile tail. And Shardul Thakur.

Sometimes in cricket, one batter just seems to be playing a different game altogether from his teammates. Joe Root has been one obvious example for most of this year. Shadul Thakur is a less obvious example, but his innings was certainly immense fun to watch. The bowler scored 57 runs from just 36 deliveries, which would be impressively quick score for a number eight in a T20. He just absolutely smashed it/edged it everywhere. I mean, I’m an England supporter but I can’t imagine many people didn’t enjoy watching it. Apart from England’s bowlers, I guess. Chris Woakes eventually managed to trap Thakur lbw, and England uncharacteristically managed to quickly dismiss the rest of the tailenders which left the tourists on a score of 191 all out.

Chris Woakes was one of two changes in this England side, replacing Sam Curran. With all due respect, this has made England’s bowling unit significantly better. Woakes outbowled Jimmy Anderson today. That’s just impressive. Curran didn’t perform well in this series with either bat or ball, and seemingly got picked based on his form in 2018 and the absence of any pace-bowling allrounders to replace him.

If Thakur’s cameo was a surprise, England’s response was anything but. Burns and Hameed scored just 6 runs between them before both being dismissed, exposing the middle order to the new ball yet again. This is the fifth time this year that Joe Root has come out with less than ten runs on the board. England lost three of those matches to India, and went on to win the game against Sri Lanka after Root scored 186. Unfortunately for England, that isn’t going to happen this time. Umesh Yadav bowled Root through the gate just before the close of play, with the hosts finishing the day on 53-3.

The match seems finely balanced, with two strong bowling attacks facing up against two brittle batting lineups. With Root already gone, it’s difficult to see this England team putting up a score above 300 and dominating. It’s good news for neutrals, keeping both sides in the game throughout. Less so for anyone who bought tickets for Day 4. Sorry Sean.

The teams were nine overs short today. You would think that would mostly be the fault of England, since they spent most of the day in the field and didn’t bowl a single over of spin. It seems clear that teams still aren’t taking over rates seriously, and the threat of losing World Test Championship points isn’t working even after Australia lost out on a chance to be in this year’s final due to such a deduction. Something has to change, but there seemingly isn’t any will within the ICC to do anything about it.

If you have any thoughts on the day’s play, or anything else that sparks your interest, post them below.

10 thoughts on “England vs India – 4th Test, Day 1 – Root Was Right

  1. Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 8:55 am

    Although England still have 7 wickets left, and may add another 200 odd today to get a 50-70 lead I think I would put India as very much ahead in this game after the first day.

    As you say, Root is out, so someone else’s is going to have to make a substantial score. And the problem as always when inserting a team is you will have to then bat last under pressure. (Unless you score so many runs in your first innings, which is not looking likely at the moment.)

    In recent years England at home have been able to bowl sides out consistently for less than 300 which has allowed them to be competitive. The problem is their own batting has become so brittle that whatever they bowl the opposition out for may be too many.

    I’m not at all sure these decisions to field first are done out of strength. Say…..”let’s bowl them out for less than 200and then make 400.” More like……. “let’s not bat first, and lose the test match on the first day.”

    On another note…. it was good to see Woakes back and bowling well, but that only reinforces the bizarre and muddled headed selection thinking in this series. Perhaps they should stop trying to reinvent the wheel, and overthink things and just pick tried and tested wicket taking bowlers?

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    • dArthez Sep 3, 2021 / 11:40 am

      The problem with Woakes is that he is known to be very good in England, and less than average on the road. The Aussies would not mind Woakes picking 10 in the next innings …

      Good start by India with the ball. It is down to Bairstow, Pope and the bowlers to keep England in this. This despite atrocious batting by India on Day 1. Thakur may not have done much with the ball, but he scored vital runs.

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      • Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 1:07 pm

        While I agree with your point about Woakes in Australia, the key is that this series in not in Australia, it’s in England where Woakes has been more successful.

        It’s all very well constantly planning for a future Ashes tour but we don’t have a long list of bowlers waiting to come in and be tried out. In fact the likes of Archer and others are out injured. Also, if Woakes is not a bowler likely to do well down under is it likely Curran is?

        We have a bowler in Woakes who is pretty good in English conditions, and the selectors for some reason decided not to pick him for a while…. in a series in English conditions. Seems counterproductive.

        Anyway, the bigger problem at the moment is the batting again. Now that I do fear in Australia.

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      • dArthez Sep 3, 2021 / 5:30 pm

        Of course there is merit in playing with regards to what is in front of you, but if you are only going to give game time to people you know in advance are extremely likely to fail, you are extremely likely to fail. Because undoubtedly, the selectors will pick the Ashes squad as if it were played in England. That has been their wont, and on that basis I do feel that the inclusion of Moeen, Malan and Woakes will lead to more muddled thinking.

        For me the problem is that basically just 3 names pick themselves for the Ashes. And that is including Stokes. So for me there is merit in trying at least people who might possibly do well in Australia, rather than the tried and failed. Which is pretty much half the squad. With Woakes an exception, because at least performs in England to a very high standard. Unlike the Bairstows and Buttlers who keep being rewarded for perennial failures.

        The least England could have done all summer is to actually give some game time to an actual spinner, rather than a batsman who bowls spin. Likewise, there must be a non-injured non-medium pace trundler in the county scene that is worthy of consideration, and not taken to the scrap yard by the medical team? I.e. what the hell were England doing with Sam Curran?

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        • Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 5:49 pm

          I would agree with a lot of this but I fear the cupboard is bare. I know some don’t like Bumble much but when he was England coach he used to say that away from England you needed bowlers of “express pace and a spin bowler who can turn the ball a decent amount.”

          Not sure we produce those types of players, and the way red ball cricket is now structured it will be even less likely. A spin bowler who turns the ball will have to also bat or he won’t get in the side. They will prefer Moeen.

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    • Marek Sep 3, 2021 / 12:42 pm

      Besides which, Woakes was injured so they couldn’t have picked him. (I still think it’s a very questionable decision to pick him for this game actually, rather than have him play a game for Warks first, and it’s one that could yet come back to bite them on the backside).

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      • Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 1:09 pm

        I didn’t realise he was also injured. I don’t follow the ins and the outs that closely to be honest. I thought it was a selection issue. That explains why he wasn’t picked.

        My mistake.

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  2. dlpthomas Sep 3, 2021 / 3:31 pm

    Not for the first time, Moeen throws it away when looking good.

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  3. Mark Sep 3, 2021 / 5:41 pm

    So England have managed to chip out a lead of 99. Which is 99 more than I thought they would get. Forecast good for tomorrow so may be the best of the batting today and tomorrow. Can India get 300 and set England 200 to win under pressure?

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