I Die by the Sword.

Great moments in sport? Root gets to 200, in Chennai, with a six. Oh – and it’s his 100th Test.

That’s the blog done, right there. Except you’d feel short-changed. So bit more. From my notes, some thoughts.

  1. Stokes gets another Bumrah Wonderball – that not-incredibly-quick-but-still screaming, inswinging yorker – whilst still on nought. Survives.
  2. 16th ball, Stokes clangs Ashwin for a straight six. Ridiculous.
  3. Already clear (by about 97th over) that Stokes/Ashwin or Stokes/Anybody is gonna be a Proper Contest. England’s wiry talisman is already looking a) bloody determined b) at the pitch, which features real rough-stuff short of a length, outside of his off-stick. England 280-something for 3 and you can almost feel the intense dance-off going on between the leftie’s attacking instincts and his obvious concern about those iffy areas on the strip. Which way will he go? When it’s obvious England must get to 500? But he’s going to have to contend with who-knows-what?
  4. We know what. Ashwin spins one. No sign of Nadeem but as he’s the one who’ll be plopping the bombs into the mix it surely can’t be long. (Interestingly, Knight on Channel Four comms talks about Kohli maybe missing a trick, here. The left arm spinner is held back, when despite his less-than-convincing performance yesterday, he has the angle to bring that rough into play. We don’t see him ’til the 103rd over).
  5. Stokes does look both nerveless and like he knows the import of the moment. Ishant is bowling well – he bowls with diligence and skill right through the innings, despite little help from the pitch for the seamers. Root and Stokes look well capable. We wait.
  6. Nadeem is in and Stokes answers with an early reverse sweep. Then Root sweeps the same bowler for four. Fascinating first over suggesting punch and counter-punch.
  7. 104th over and the 300 comes up, following two consecutive fours for Stokes, off Ishant. (The bowler did little wrong). Stokes is now 26 from 40 and Root has 142.
  8. In the 106th, Nadeem finally finds the jack-in-the-box; the ball erupting. Stokes seems almost shocked – though he’s been heavily preparing for it. He (still) sweeps the next ball, to make his statement, connecting o-kaaay rather than emphatically. We have the two contradictory senses; that the batsmen are both looking to Go Big and that something is about to happen, for Nadeem.
  9. Fifty partnership is up, off 107 balls.
  10. I am thinking about Leach. And about what he is thinking. The pitch may be made for him.
  11. First of two poor reviews, for India. Ashwin should have seen the ball was nowhere near the glove, as Stokes swept. Soon afterwards Nadeem seems unluckier when Root finally misses but the ball is tracked bouncing over. More of a let-off, for England but Root sweeps the next ball competently away. Engrossing stuff: mind games at close to maximum.
  12. 111th over. Stokes seems bit frazzled; opting now to hit through his troubled or troubling patch. Root gets to 150; another truly outstanding knock. 326 for 3 at drinks. When we resume two further reverses get Stokes to 50.
  13. 115th over and a further explosion off the pitch, on a length for the right-arm spinner Sundar. Like outrageous – bounce and bite. Smacks of a fourth innings nightmare and possibly some major anarchy even before that. Probably an “OK that settles it, I Die By The Sword” moment, for Stokes.
  14. With England on 387, Stokes goes fearlessly aerial again. This time Pujara, despite making a horrible hash of it, holds on, in the deep. It’s been another memorable effort from England’s tattooed hero: he goes for 82 typically colourful runs, off 118. Enter Pope.
  15. In many ways a fabulous time for the young talent to come in… and yet conditions, he knows, will be testing. He’s away, with a nicely cuffed cut for 4, off Nadeem. He also has Bumrah to contend with.
  16. Pope’s low, wide base the subject of some analysis on comms. It is striking. Much talk from ex-pro’s about how good the lad is. Suspect he will get a longish run at this number 6 berth; quite rightly. Technique, quality and mentality all appear to be in place. In ahead of Buttler (or Foakes) makes sense.
  17. After the 400 comes up, with Root on 175 from 312 and Pope inching in on 5 from 20, acute tiredness kicks in upon your local correspondent. (Up at 3.45 last two nights – c’mon). No notes and *possible snoozing* until that other poor review, again from Ashwin, this time against Pope, who is not out.
  18. Thereafter, a late fightback from India and some deserved reward for Ishant, who has run in proudly and with real discipline for two days. England lose Pope for a decent-but-not-sparkling 34, Buttler for 30, Archer first ball. Oh – and Root gets that double with a ridicu-six, before finally falling lbw to Nadeem, for 218. Bess – predictably, that’s why he’s there – does an excellent delaying/irritating/accumulating job and the doughty Leach is well, doughty. With just Jimmy to come, England are boasting an encouraging 555 for 8. India have plenty of batting… but can they bat on this pitch?

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