sport

Root digs in to deny India

Debutant Joe Root was England's joint top-scorer in a hard-working 330 all out on the second afternoon of the final Test against India.

The 21-year-old Yorkshireman, a surprise inclusion for this match which England must at least draw to complete a series victory, rose to the occasion with a determined 229-ball innings of 73.

It was yet to be established how valuable his fine effort, and England's sum total, would prove - and India's teatime 32 for one in reply was not yet a reliable indication either.

Root's range of stroke, like everyone else's, was constrained by the limitations of a deathly slow Nagpur pitch.

But he became increasingly assured, in a century stand with Matt Prior (57) for the sixth wicket and then one of 60 for the eighth with Graeme Swann (56).

After Kevin Pietersen also made 73 yesterday, Root could therefore take much of the credit for ensuring England dug out a total of substance after stumbling first to 16 for two and then 139 for five.

Prior beat Root to his half-century, defying the physics of this paceless surface to bag a trademark square-cut off Pragyan Ojha for his sixth four.

There were only two boundaries in Root's 50, and four in all by the time he was done in a composed innings featuring compact defence against spin and the seam of Ishant Sharma - with the sweep his main outlet to slow bowlers.

His and Prior's first task today was to negotiate another spell from Sharma, in these extreme conditions which have made India's solitary seamer a bigger threat than any of their four spinners.

There were no scrapes against any of the bowlers, though, until Prior succumbed to Ravichandran Ashwin.

The off-spinner struck, from round the wicket, with a delivery that did not turn but snaked past Prior's defensive push on the angle to hit off-stump.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni sensibly turned straight back to Ishant (three for 49), to attack the new batsman, and that obvious switch worked when Tim Bresnan missed an inswinger to go for a second-ball duck.

This was a surface which did not appear likely to suit Swann's natural timing and clean-striking, but he confounded that premise.

It was Root, in fact, who was to go first after lunch - untypically up the wicket to drive leg-spinner Piyush Chawla and succeeding only in chipping back a return catch.

Root remonstrated with himself by banging his bat into his pad, having made his first serious mistake just when a maiden hundred was beginning to look a possibility at his first attempt.

He had little reason for self-reproach - a statement which also applied to Swann, despite the regrettable attempted reverse-sweep which eventually proved his undoing lbw to Chawla.

By then, England's number nine was well in credit after hitting six fours and his team's only two sixes - over long-on off Ravindra Jadeja and then again, to celebrate his 50, off Chawla.

The leg-spinner also picked up the last wicket, that of James Anderson thanks to a sharp catch straight off the face of the bat by Cheteshwar Pujara at short-leg, to give Chawla flattering figures of four for 69.

Anderson quickly got his own back when he bowled the dangerous Virender Sehwag for a duck in the first over of India's innings, when the opener somehow managed to play defensively inside an inswinger and lost his middle-stump.

Pujara and Gautam Gambhir survived the remainder of the session, however, without undue alarm.