The first session of the game belonged to India, who managed to pick up two wickets just before lunch. After a crisp 63 runs opening stand, Rory Burns fell to Ravichandran Ashwin’s off-spin and Dan Lawrence, who impressed everyone in Sri Lanka, was trapped LBW by Jasprit Bumrah.
Going into lunch, England was in a spot of bother, however post-lunch, Root and Sibley settled down and took full advantage of the day 1 pitch – which usually favors the batsmen in subcontinent conditions.
Root and Sibley looked both at ease against the spin duo of Ashwin and Shahbaz Nadeem. Sibley batted with remarkable patience bringing up his 50 off 159 balls. His defense in particular was impressive – he was quick to judge the line & length of the ball and presented a full-faced bat while blocking spinners.
Root started cautiously. At tea, he was 48* off 100 balls. After tea, he unleashed a range of shots, in particular sweeping and reverse-sweeping Indian spinners with great efficacy.
The hallmark of Root’s sweep shot was that he set himself up early and then played a fully committed shot. Unlike Burns who played a half-hearted reverse-sweep only to glove it to Rishabh Pant behind the stumps, Root’s shots were played with conviction and authority.
Indian spin bowlers were unimpressive. Ashwin failed to make a break-through whereas Nadeem, on debut, was a bit short of answers.
As the day progressed, it seemed as if India were missing the services of Ravindra Jadeja, who had been ruled out due to an injury. Jadeja’s left-arm orthodox spin has often flummoxed the opposition team.
The thing with Jadeja is he bowls quickly in the air, giving batsmen minimal time to pick up the ball’s line and length. Nadeem, on the other hand, bowled in the mid-80s and gave the batsman sufficient time to pick his deliveries. All this meant that Root and Sibley were able to play him with ease.
Further, as we mentioned above that sweep was Root’s go-to shot, Jadeja with his quick deliveries might have been able to restrict Root. But alas Jadeja is injured. Axar Patel – his like to like replacement – also suffered an injury.
Overall, Indian spinners will need to reflect where they lacked on day 1 and Indian fans will hope they will come back stronger on day 2.
Also, one of the reasons why India is indomitable in their own backyard is because seamers, in particular Shami and Yadav, have been able to exploit reserve-swing on these barren pitches.
Even though Ishant Sharma was good with his line and length, his pace was not high enough to extract reverse-swing. Perhaps, playing Mohammed Siraj, who is quicker and also gets the ball to skid, would have been a better idea on this pitch.
However, Bumrah was brilliant with the ball. His yorker eventually broke the Root-Sibley partnership. India will hope to build on from this on day 2.