Welcome to our live report of the first day of the first India-England Test from Chennai. Join us for updates, analysis and colour. You can find our traditional ball-by-ball commentary here
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5.00pm: Stumps – England 263 for 3 (Root 128*, Sibley 87)
That’s the end of a fantastic day for England and – although it’s an over-used phrase, in this case it’s apt – a fairytale day for captain Root. An unbeaten century in his 100th Test and a partnership with Sibley, worth 200, helped England recover from 63 for 2. Sibley hinted at this knock with his 56 not out in Galle at the end of an otherwise torrid Sri Lanka tour for him, but it ended in bittersweet fashion here when he was out lbw to Bumrah in the last over before the close.
4.45pm: What a sport
Now that’s a nice show of sportsmanship. No sooner has Root whacked Ashwin for a six over midwicket and the England skipper goes down with a violent cramp. In comes Kohli to help him stretch out. Warm, fuzzy feelings all round.
4.15pm: India take the new ball
Ashwin returns to the attack to bowl the 79th and 81st overs, and Kohli decides to take the new ball immediately after. Ishant Sharma – who has only bowled 12 overs so far – comes back on, and India may decide to keep Ashwin on given his ability with a hard ball. This partnership is now worth 179 runs, and England will be desperate to reach stumps without losing another wicket.
4.00pm: Three in a row
Root nudges a single into the leg side behind square to bring up his 20th Test hundred in his 100th match. It’s his third in as many Tests, following scores of 228 and 186 in Sri Lanka, and he will be determined to turn this into another epic. Two overs until the new ball is available to India.
3.45pm: Root closes in
Joe Root is six runs short of joining a list of greats who made tons in their 100th Test match at drinks in the evening session. For India, the new ball looks increasingly important, and it’s due in six overs’ time.
“The intensity has gone for the Indian fielders. They’re waiting for the new ball,” says Alastair Cook on Channel 4. “Root’s ability to manipulate the field so he can score so freely – it’s so hard as a captain to deal with that. His batting over the last couple of weeks has been sensational. [Sibley] is coming out of his bubble a little bit but he doesn’t need to do anything different. He’s putting the miles in the legs so that hopefully people like Pope and Stokes can cash in.”
3.25pm: Nadeem’s mixed bag
Shahbaz Nadeem has, in some ways, done what was asked of him in this innings. He has done pretty well in terms of keeping things tight and nagging away on a length, but he would be disappointed to have conceded seven boundaries, while Kohli will be particularly annoyed at the fact he has overstepped three times – twice in as many balls earlier in the day.
But all told, he has performed steadily in a holding role, and will be encouraged by the fact Sibley has started to play slightly more expansively against him since tea. The second new ball, due in 10 overs, could still be a key factor in the day.
2.50pm: Taking Root
Root is quickly up and running after tea, and has more or less caught up with Sibley’s score despite coming in 25 overs later. Gaurav Sundararaman points out that he has now made 14 half-centuries in 17 Tests against India.
2.10pm: Tea – England 140 for 2 (Sibley 53*, Root 45*)
An excellent partnership between Sibley and Root, which is worth 77 runs in 31.2 overs as they reach tea unscathed. England will be delighted to have negotiated their way through the afternoon without losing a wicket but there are positive signs for India, with the ball – which looks extremely old and battered already – reversing significantly, for Bumrah and in particular for Ishant Sharma. This is Ishant’s first Test in 11 months after injury ruled him out of the Australia tour but he has settled back into the rhythm of things seamlessly.
For readers in the UK, meanwhile, Andrew Miller has been writing about the nostalgia trip of this Test being available on terrestrial TV – the first shown on free-to-air TV here since 2005. Have a read here.
1.45pm: Sibley and Root cash in
This is the sort of situation which would usually see Ravindra Jadeja rattling along, bowling tight lines and forcing batsmen to play, but in his absence England have been able to score much more freely against India’s back-up spinners, Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem. As discussed below, Root eschewed the sweep early in his innings but has started to play it regularly.
He explained his method in an interview with the Telegraph this week: “I will sweep a lot on line and not length. If it is outside off stump and it is a left-arm spinner [turning the ball away] and even if it is spinning big, it will loop over the keeper and slip if you top edge it so sweeping is a safe shot. You can’t be bowled or lbw because it is pitching outside off stump and turning away and all the gaps are on the leg side.” Sure enough, when Nadeem strayed wide of the off stump, he got down and swept him for four.
But Sibley has been particularly impressive after looking all at sea against the turning ball in Sri Lanka. He has scored heavily through midwicket as usual, but has looked more assured in his footwork, making an easy decision whether to come fully forward or camp on the back foot and sticking to it, and has just brought up his second half-century in as many innings with a back-foot punch to extra cover. Unsurprisingly, Kohli has turned to Bumrah and Ashwin again, realising he needs to break this partnership.
1.15pm: Root puts the sweep away
Joe Root swept prolifically in England’s recent series in Sri Lanka, playing the shot more than 50 times in both of his hundreds as he dominated Lasith Embuldeniya and Dilruwan Perera in particular. But Root’s sweep has been conspicuous by its absence this afternoon: he did not play it at all in the first 57 balls he faced, despite the majority of those being off R Ashwin and Shahbaz Nadeem.
There are various possible explanations. Ashwin and Nadeem have both bowled quickly at him, regularly operating in the 55mph/90kph region, while Ashwin in particular has managed to find drift away from the outside edge and bounce from a length, making the sweep a higher-risk option. Root finally decided to take the shot on during Washington Sundar’s first over, but misjudged it after appearing to premeditate: the ball was fuller than he had anticipated, and dribbled into the leg side via the glove.
Updated: It seems like Root has decided he can target Washington with the sweep and the reverse. After three overs of Washington’s spell, Root has swept him twice and reverse-swept him once. He has also been happy to skip down the track against him, clearly feeling like his lack of turn allows him to attack.
12.50pm: Ashwin vs Root
The battle between India’s best spinner and England’s best batsman is compelling. Root played incredibly well against spin in Sri Lanka but has not found things quite so easy this afternoon, especially with Ashwin finding a hint of drift away from the outside edge. This pitch has a bit more bounce in it that the surfaces at Galle did, and Ashwin’s guile and mystery means that he has been able to keep Root guessing in a way that Perera and Embuldeniya could not. Root scored 149 runs for twice out against Ashwin on the 2016-17 tour and averages 85.00 against him in all Tests, but has not found it easy to pick his lengths today.
Root is also having to deal with the threat of Ishant Sharma in this session, bottom-edging him through to Pant on the bounce, nearly strangling down the leg side and surviving an lbw shout within the space of five balls in the 36th over. Meanwhile, Ashwin has changed his plan to Sibley, going round the wicket and angling the ball across him, while Kohli has been happy to plug his scoring options by posting several fielders at midwicket, which is Sibley’s strongest area.
12.20pm: Bumrah’s early strikes
Shiva Jayaraman has run the numbers on why Bumrah is a go-to bowler against batsmen fresh at the crease: he has taken 61 top-order wickets (top seven) in Test cricket. 31 of those 61 wickets (50.8%) have been of batsmen yet to reach double figures. Among bowlers with 50 or more top-order wickets since Bumrah’s debut, the only bowler who has a higher percentage of single-digit scalps is Stuart Broad. 51 of Broad’s 91 top-order wickets (56.7%) have been of batsmen dismissed in single digits. Dan Lawrence was the 11th top-order batsmen to be dismissed on a duck by Bumrah. Since his debut, only Broad (17) and Kemar Roach (12) have dismissed more top-order batsmen for a duck.
As for why that is, I’d suggest that Bumrah’s unique action takes some getting used to, meaning that batsmen are particularly vulnerable when they face him for the first time in a match. And of course, as his overall Test average below 22 attests, he is exceptionally skilled, too. Broad, meanwhile, has made a point of bowling straight and making batsmen play over the last two years – which is something else that Bumrah is particularly good at.
11.30am: Lunch – England 67 for 2 (Root 4*, Sibley 26*)
Dan Lawrence, who hadn’t batted at No. 3 in a first-class game since September 2017, doesn’t last long in his new role for England. Kohli whipped Ashwin out of the attack straight after his breakthrough in order to give Bumrah an opportunity against the new batsman, and he appeared to extract some reverse-swing to bring one back in sharply that pinned Lawrence in front.
A slightly sketchy start from Root in his 100th Test, who skewed a leading edge through the covers as Ashwin – having changed ends – got one to drift away from the bat. Root also set off for a very tight single, which Ashwin seemed convinced had run him out, but the replays showed he was safely home.
Here’s Shiva Jayaraman on Burns’ reverse-sweep: England batsmen played 44 reverse-sweeps/paddles against spinners in their recent tour of Sri Lanka. The shot fetched England 69 runs at the cost of just a solitary wicket. Perhaps, the lower bounce in comparison on the pitches at Galle worked to their benefit.
However, it was still a riskier, low-percentage option for the England batsmen considering that they were in control of their shots only 75% of the time. In comparison, they were in control of their other attacking shots against the Sri Lanka spinners 94% of the time. They averaged 100 runs per dismissal from the other attacking options (as opposed to 69 from reverse-sweeps). It was certainly a low-percentage shot for Rory Burns to try in the first session of the Test, on a pitch that has largely looked flat.
11.20am: Burns’ brainfade
Burns had been untroubled by Ashwin’s round-the-wicket angle to him, happily getting across to the off side and working him off his pads. Off the first ball of the 24th over, he skipped down the pitch to clip him through midwicket, causing Ashwin to change his plan and go over the wicket.
Almost immediately, he looked more troubled by the ball angling across him and spinning away from the bat, looking more awkward in defence that he previously had. Off the fifth ball of the over, he decided that he needed to throw Ashwin off the scent by bringing out the reverse-sweep, a shot that he had played against spin only seven times previously in his career, but he was through the shot early and the ball looped up to Pant via the glove.
11.00am: Steady progress for England
The 50 partnership comes up between Sibley and Burns, as Burns clips Ashwin behind square for a couple. There has been some slightly erratic running between the wickets as they’ve look to pinch singles this morning, but they’ve managed to rotate well and tick over, rather than allowing bowlers to settle into a rhythm of bowling at one of them for a prolonged period of time.
Shiva Jayaraman tells me this is the first time in 13 home Tests that India have conceded a 50+ stand for the first wicket, though as Gaurav Sundararaman points out, England’s openers have often been successful in India across the last decade.
Shahbaz Nadeem has been thrown the ball for the first time, and he strayed a little on the short side early on, allowing Burns and Sibley to commit to getting either fully forward or fully back. Burns swept him for three, while Sibley rocked back to cut from deep in the crease. His length improved in his second over, moving a fraction fuller, but he will be keen to get the batsmen playing.
10.10am: Ashwin on early
Bumrah’s first spell last only three overs, as Kohli throws the ball to Ashwin on his home ground. As the table below illustrates, both of England’s openers have had their issues against spinners in their Test careers to date, but perhaps the most concerning aspect of those figures for England fans is that they have played the vast majority of their games in conditions which do not suit spin.
Burns has had issues against offspin in particular, with Roston Chase dismissing him five times in 93 balls in Tests – and there is no doubt that Ashwin is a significantly better bowler. Sibley starts solidly enough against him, getting fully back to length balls, and steering him for four through the gully, but this will be a tough challenge.
Gaurav Sundararaman tells me that since Ashwin’s debut, only four bowlers – Broad, Anderson, Boult and Philander – have taken more wickets than him with the first new ball (i.e. within the first 20 overs of an innings).
9.50am: Bumrah’s first home spell
More than three years after his Test debut, Jasprit Bumrah is bowling in a Test in India for the first time, and there’s a chance straightaway. His first ball at home is angled into the left-handed Burns from round the wicket, and Rishabh Pant puts down a tricky, one-handed catch, diving low to his right as Burns looks to work off his pads. That will add further scrutiny to Pant’s keeping, with plenty of Indian fans suggesting in the build-up that he should play as a specialist batsman with Saha behind the stumps.
There’s early evidence of India’s planning for this series in the first four overs, with a leg gully briefly stationed for Dom Sibley (he has been caught strangled down the leg side regularly in his fledgling career) and the seamers opting to bowl round the wicket to Burns and hoping to shape the ball into him. A silly mid-on has come in at the start of Ishant’s third over, with his left boot almost touching the strip.
9.25am: Root brings up his 100
England captain Joe Root has been presented with his 100th Test cap by vice-captain Ben Stokes ahead of play. For our extensive coverage of his milestone Test, click here, and don’t forget to check out Polite Enquiries with the man himself.
9.00am: England win toss and bat
No hesitation in opting to make first use of this pitch for Joe Root, who is playing his 100th Test today. “I do enjoy playing in India. It’s a big challenge and the boys will have to relish it,” he says. Virat Kohli admits that he would have batted first, too, and calls it a “good cricketing wicket”.
For India, the big news this morning is that Axar Patel – who looked set to partner R Ashwin as the second spinner – was ruled out 80 minutes before the toss with a knee injury suffered in yesterday’s training session. They have decided to pick three spinners in Ashwin, Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem, with Jasprit Bumrah (playing his first-ever home Test) and Ishant Sharma forming a two-man pace attack.
Zak Crawley misses both Chennai Tests after suffering a freak wrist injury, so Dan Lawrence keeps his place and is carded to bat at No. 3. The other big calls: Dom Bess plays ahead of Moeen Ali, while Jimmy Anderson is preferred to Stuart Broad.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98