In more than 40 years of getting up early to listen or watch this and 20 years of writing about it, there has never been a morning beginning with England on quintuple Nelson, that’s for sure. They have been in very commanding positions before but never one resembling a Seventies brand of cheap cigs. Still, I’m a firm believer in the Boycottian view that we should never rush to judgment about a Tests’s outcome until both sides have batted and given India’s formidable record at home, and the fact they’ve made more than 500 in their first innings at home 10 times in the past five years, little wonder that the draw is the overwhelming favourite among possible outcomes.
Ben Stokes launched the praise for Joe Root, yesterday, saying his captain makes even him “feel pretty rubbish” after watching his latest double century grind down India.
“He makes us all feel pretty rubbish with how easy he makes batting look,” said Stokes.
“That’s pretty much where he is at the moment, he makes everyone else around him look not very good.
“He’s in phenomenal form and making things look very, very easy. The way he plays spin – dominates spin – is incredible to watch.
“I don’t think we’ve had an England batsman ever play spin the way he does. He’s got an answer and an option for everything that is thrown at him. It’s just a delight to watch him at the moment.”
Stokes, making his first Test appearance since last August, hit three sixes in his entertaining innings as he showed his ability to clear the ropes had not been diluted by the time off.
Root is less known for his big blows, making it all the more impressive when he reached 200 with a huge hit over long-off.
Stokes laughed: “I was quite surprised he ran down the wicket and hacked a six to bring up a double!”
England will send India out to field for a third straight morning on Sunday, with Stokes leaving no doubt about the viability of an overnight declaration. On their last visit to Chennai, England lost by an innings as India ran up 759 batting second.
“There was no thought whatsoever of a declaration. That would be stupid after winning the toss and batting first,” he said.
“You just get as many runs as you can out here in India. If we can bat for another hour in the morning we’ll be very happy with that. Generally wickets don’t get any better here, especially when the heat blazes on it and you put 90 overs on it a day.
“It’s going to get drier, break up, deteriorate. But just because we’ve got big first innings runs it doesn’t give us the right to bowl them out twice as we hope to do. We’ve still got a lot of hard work to do as a bowling unit. It’s tough to take 20 wickets anywhere but out here 20 can be hard to come by.”
Jack Leach and Dom Bess will resume in the middle looking to extend their 30-run stand, with number 11 James Anderson waiting in the wings.