The Ashes

Published on December 6th, 2017 | by Sakshi Gupta

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Joe Root’s ‘Kohli-esque’ innings

When Joe Root was at the crease trying to save the second Ashes Test for England, Virat Kohli, on the other part of the world, had just struck a sixth double century. While a score of 51 of Root’s highest in his last three innings, it was Kohli’s second Test double in two Tests. While Kohli is inches away from winning yet another Test as the Indian skipper, Root failed to finish the job with the bat and now England are in trouble as they trail 0-2 in the ongoing Ashes 2017-18. There sure is no comparison between Root and Kohli’s recent knocks because those have come in totally different situations and conditions but Root’s gritty total of 123-ball 67 brought back memories of Kohli’s captain’s knock of 141 off 175 balls in the fourth innings at Adelaide in 2014.

Yes, the same series that took off with a bang at Adelaide and ended with an explosion when MS Dhoni announced his Test retirement. Dhoni, however, missed the first Test at Adelaide due to a hairline crack in right thumb but was back in the squad for the second match. In the absence of Dhoni, Kohli had led Team India in the whites for the very first time. With a bit of an experience of captaincy under his sleeves, from the shorter formats, Kohli went into the Adelaide Test. Australia set India a target of 364 runs with over a day left in hand.

Remember Kohli almost took India over the line in 2014?

In reply to Australia’s 517 runs in the first innings, Kohli and Co had responded decently with 41 runs on the board as Kohli scored a maiden century as the Indian captain in Australia. India needed Kohli to step up again and he needed support from the other batsmen in the team to end India’s six-year drought of a Test win on the Australian soils. Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon had cleaned up Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwara Pujara early in the chase but from there, Kohli and Murali Vijay stuck around to take India closer to a dream victory.

However, their stand of 185 runs for the third wicket was broken by Lyon when he dismissed Vijay, who sadly missed a ton by just a run. After that dismissal, India needed 122 runs more to win the Test and with Kohli’s that form, a victory seemed possible, provided the other batsmen stood on the other end. The likes of Rohit Sharma and Wriddhiman Saha started off well but the Australian attack proved to be too good for them. Eventually, Lyon removed Kohli too and with that, ceased India’s hope of winning a Test in Australia after a long wait.

While that was one of the best counter-punching innings one witnessed in a very long time, it was more special because it came in Kohli’s first Test as India’s captain. India fell short of 48 runs because Kohli did not receive the support from the other end; India was right in the game when tables had turned in the favour of India with the partnership between Kohli and Vijay.

Similarly, Australia felt threatened when Root and Dawid Malan began to stitch the much-needed partnership for England in the final innings on Tuesday.

It was the same venue of Adelaide; while the Adelaide Test was Kohli’s first Test in Australia as captain, Root was more or less as new as Kohli, Down Under, as a national captain. He had an experience of just one Test captaining his team in Australia. Both young captains wanted to make a statement as a captain and as the team’s best batsman. Root, all the more because England lost the opening Test in Brisbane by a huge margin of 10 wickets. The only difference that chickened out at the end was Kohli was in the runs and Root was not until the final innings in Adelaide.

Kohli scored a ton in both the innings, while Root, who had been out of rhythm since the first Test, edged to third slip for a mere nine runs. However, when England lost quick wickets on Day four, during their chase of 354, it was mandatory for the captain to lead his team from the front. Before the role of a skipper, Root has had the responsibility of being the team’s best batsman and it was time to justify that tag. He already had an extra pressure of a guilt – he had opted to bowl first after he won the toss and that decision had been criticised every single time England were pushed at the back-foot by the hosts.

Only a win could allow the mistake not look like a mistake anymore.

And, the pathway was as difficult as it looked. England had never chased down a target as high as 354; for nearly 90 years, their record chase had been 332. A win at Adelaide would not only put Root in the history books of England but also it would be one of the top 10 chases in all of Test history.

Australia did have their initial moments when they broke Cook and Stoneman’s stand followed by Jame Vince’s removal soon after that. However, from there, Root fought through the tricky evening in Adelaide under the lights. It will not be fair to ignore Malan’s supporting innings but Root was the man of the day for England. He not only played to survive but to score runs.

Root was given out LBW on 32 off Lyon’s bowling but the DRS showed it went too high and Root survived and was never dismissed till the stumps of Day four. A few overs later, Pat Cummins was sure he had Root caught behind. Smith reviewed and ended up losing a review. And then when Josh Hazlewood struck Malan on the flap of the pad in the next over, an infuriated Smith signalled for a review again, only to exhaust both the reviews in a span of three balls.

Smith’s nervy decision would have allowed Root to play more freely than ever. Suddenly, the pressure had been transferred to the hosts and Root, for once, seemed to have had an upper hand in the innings. With the combination of skills, bravery and luck, Root batted on, targeted the square of the wicket as much as he could and along with him, the Barmy Army ensured Adelaide went buzzing with the English men. Every time Australia appealed, the Army taunted the hosts about the lost reviews.

At stumps of Day four, Root was on unbeaten 67 and in the chase of 354, he had taken his side to 176 for 4. England needed another 178 runs and if Root managed to carry the same momentum into the final day, a victory sure seemed like on the cards for the English. Steven Smith, after the end of the Test, even admitted having had a sleeping pill on the night before the final showdown.

However, Root failed to give England a fairy-tale end at Adelaide. England’s hope of winning the Adelaide Test lasted only for 17 deliveries on the final day. With the end of the third over also ended England’s chances. Within four overs, Hazlewood had dismissed Root and Chris Woakes and within two hours into Day five, Australia had gone 2-0 up in the Ashes.

Regardless of the result, the 185 minutes that Root spent at the crease, absorbing the pressure surely will be considered one of his most precious times there. Maybe, the bowlers produced a great show as they bowled Australia out for 138 runs, helped Root mentally and allowed the captain to bat with a better state of mind. Now that he has finally gotten back his lost touch with the bat, one might expect him to spread a lot more positive atmosphere in the dressing room that will help England recover before the Perth Test.

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About the Author

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More than a sport, sports persons have kept her engaged in work. She is a sports fanatic whose mantra in life is “do only what you enjoy”. She tweets @sakshi2929.



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