India v England: Zak Crawley praises Joe Root after his century in Ranchi
England 302-7: Root 106*, Foakes 47; Deep 3-70
India: Yet to bat

Joe Root returned to form when England needed him most with a masterful century on the first day of the fourth Test against India in Ranchi.

Short of runs and at the centre of a debate around his approach to batting, Root played a classical Test innings to keep the tourists in the series.

In a breathless morning, England were reduced to 112-5 by some superb India bowling in highly testing conditions.

Akash Deep bowled with venom for three wickets on debut and Ben Stokes was helpless to a delivery that Ravindra Jadeja got to scuttle along the ground.

But Root conquered the conditions, showing patience, determination and supreme skill for his 106 not out.

By the close he had taken England to a very strong 302-7 as they look to level the series at 2-2.

Root added 113 for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes, who made a priceless 47, then another 57 with the recalled Ollie Robinson, who accompanied Root to three figures in his unbeaten 31.

When Root drove Deep for four, he reached his hundred from 219 deliveries, the slowest by any England batter since captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum took charge.

For England, it was a fantastic ending to a day that began with the news leg-spinner Rehan Ahmed has returned home because of an urgent family matter.

England read the room to stay in series

England were criticised after their massive 434-run defeat in the third Test, with some accusing them of being too cavalier and not properly adapting to the nuances of Test cricket.

It would be harsh to apportion blame for the position they found themselves in at lunch. Yes, they scored at almost five an over in the morning session, but only Ollie Pope and Jonny Bairstow were out attacking.

India exploited the conditions, perhaps aided by moisture in the surface and the hardness of the new ball. When the pitch dried and the ball softened, batting eased, but that takes nothing away from the manner in which Root and Foakes read the situation.

Their partnership, 113 from 261 balls, was England’s slowest in excess of 100 in the Stokes-McCullum era. The 86 runs at 2.33 runs per over they scored between lunch and tea was England’s slowest session of scoring in those same two years.

Praising England’s determined approach in Ranchi is not a criticism of their preference to be aggressive. There is a time and place for both and here England have demonstrated their flexibility.

Only time will reveal if their first-day efforts are enough to force a fifth-Test decider, but the crucial toss has left India with the proposition of batting last on a pitch that could turn out to be devilishly difficult for batting.

Root back in the runs

With a highest a score of 37 in six innings on this tour, Root was in his longest run without a half-century for two years. Of more concern were the manner of his dismissals: a wild swipe in the second innings of the second Test, then a reverse scoop at Jasprit Bumrah in the first innings of the third.

Whether Root had already decided to alter his approach, or simply adjusted to the situation, he was flawless. The former captain’s defence was immaculate and he used the sweep and reverse-sweep sparingly.

Root played delicate glides to the third-man boundary and only scored his first four in front of square from the 126th delivery he faced. There was never a suggestion of a reverse-scoop.

Dependable support came from Foakes, who was just moving through the gears by taking 16 – including a six – off a Ravichandran Ashwin over when he clipped Mohammad Siraj to short mid-wicket.

India could not call upon Root’s nemesis, the rested Bumrah, and the frustrated hosts had used all their reviews when Robinson was pinned by Jadeja on eight, with replays showing the ball would have hit the stumps.

Root’s celebration for his 31st Test hundred was muted, but greeted with delight by Stokes. He will return on Saturday with the opportunity to put further pressure on the home side.

Deep trouble on breathless morning

The pre-match attention on the pitch suggested there would be fireworks in Ranchi. Whether it was the conditions, the brilliance of Deep or a combination of the two, a riveting first morning did not disappoint.

In the first over, delivered by Siraj, Zak Crawley had to fend one off his throat and watch another keep low. Deep hammered a consistent length and got the ball jagging back into the right-handers.

Crawley took multiple blows and was bowled off a Deep no-ball before launching into some stellar strokeplay. At one point he followed three consecutive fours off Siraj with an astonishing whip for six over long-on.

Deep held his nerve. Ben Duckett prodded at one that left him, Pope advanced to his second ball and was leg-before to a very good review. Root survived a review from his first ball and Crawley was bowled through the gate on 42 as Deep produced a replica of the earlier no-ball.

Bairstow picked up Crawley’s aggression and looked to be finding some form of his own. He slog-swept Ashwin for six only to fall lbw on review for 38 attempting a similar shot at the same bowler.

When Stokes was lbw to the shooter from Jadeja – the ball not getting above ankle-height – it spelt trouble for England and batters across the rest of the match. Then came the Root masterclass.

‘That could be a match-winning innings’ – reaction

England opener Zak Crawley, speaking to TNT Sports about Joe Root: “We’re so happy for him and we never doubted him.

“If anything we know that when he’s got a couple of low scores he’s even more likely to get a big one and we expected that from him.

“I said beforehand that if we get 280-300, we’re in a very good position so I stand by that – we are ahead of the game.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “A really good day for England and a masterful hundred from England’s best player in Joe Root. This was the day England played the situation perfectly.”

Former England spinner Phil Tufnell: “That could be a match-winning innings from Joe Root. England have got a good score through his determination, application and skill.

“It was a classical Joe Root innings.”

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