Joe Root’s stock has never been higher. He produced a magnificent individual display to lead his side to a historic win in Chennai, equalling the all-time record for wins as England captain.
Root celebrated his landmark 100th Test appearance with arguably his finest hour as captain, while his opposite number Virat Kohli was left to reflect on his fourth consecutive Test defeat – India’s worst run under his stewardship.
England’s 227-run victory in the first Test shattered a multitude of records. It marked a sixth consecutive win away from home, a sixth successive win in the subcontinent, and a first win on Indian soil since 2012.
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Root’s magnificent double hundred set the tone for the tourists’ textbook display. England were disciplined throughout; compiling huge first-innings runs before bowling magnificently as a unit to accrue 20 wickets in uncompromising conditions.
The 30-year-old’s exploits with the bat invariably dominated the headlines, but his captaincy was exemplary. He was astute tactically, rotated his bowling attack brilliantly and his decision not to declare on day four – maligned by many at the time – paid dividends.
Sir Alastair Cook – the man Root succeeded as England skipper, declared: “Everything Joe Root touches turns to gold.” Few could argue on current evidence.
During the first innings, Root’s decision to plump for Dom Bess over the conventional left-arm spin of Jack Leach was inspired, with the 23-year-old removing the quartet of Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rishabh Pant.
Leach was entrusted with the new ball in the second innings and dismissed Rohit Sharma with a beautiful delivery, while Jimmy Anderson’s introduction back into the attack on day five was timed perfectly, when reverse swing was at its optimum.
India produced fifth-day heroics during their series success in Australia last month, but there was to be no repeat in Chennai, as England wrapped up a comprehensive victory; their ninth win in their last 12 Tests.
Root celebrated the occasion with another milestone, moving level with Michael Vaughan (26) for most wins as England captain; surpassing his fellow Yorkshireman in terms of overseas success.
“I think Joe Root’s captaincy has gone under the radar,” Cook told Channel 4.
“He probably wasn’t a natural leader when he started, and everyone saw that and criticised him for it. He has got an unbelievable win percentage – 47 games he has captained and he’s already won 26 – an England record.
“He should take a lot of credit for that because he has gone away and worked on it. You have to learn leadership. There are not many people who are a natural England captain from day one and he can definitely be ranked as one of England’s greatest captains.”
“Root sure is one of England’s greats. He will probably end up breaking all records, he will probably go past Sir Alastair Cook’s 161 Test matches and probably tally of runs as well.”
Nasser Hussain lauds England’s captain
Sir Andrew Strauss guided England to their last series win in India back in 2012, and the former England opener believes Root can inspire another famous triumph in the subcontinent.
“I think as a batsman he has a huge amount of respect, as a personality he has a great amount of respect. He’s such a likeable person and he’s also so driven and committed to make sure this England team is as good as it can be,” added Strauss.
“The players play for him. They like playing for him and his record is excellent. The big thing for him is winning out in Australia, but before that, if he can get a notch with a win against India away from home, that is going to be a phenomenal achievement.”
Winning in any format away from home is deserving of plaudits, but India’s irrepressible record on home soil illustrates the magnitude of England’s achievement.
At home, India were unbeaten in Test matches since 2017, having lost just one of their last 35. Admittedly the toss played a crucial part, but the tourists barely put a foot wrong throughout the five days.
By contrast, Kohli endured a chastening return to the fold, as he featured for the first time since departing the Australian tour due to paternity leave.
India’s talisman travelled home after their humbling defeat in Adelaide, but Rahane deputised magnificently in his absence; presiding over a famous 2-1 series victory.
Rahane received acclaim for his bold captaincy down under and the players thrived under his leadership, which may have explained Kohli’s uncharacteristically subdued demeanour across the opening two days.
He remains indomitable with the bat, looking a class above throughout India’s second innings, but scrutiny surrounding his tactical acumen will intensify given the manner of their defeat.
Nevertheless, the animation and intensity that has defined Kohli’s reign resurfaced during England’s second innings, and Cook believes the hosts will return to Chennai ‘a wounded animal’ for the second Test.
Virat Kohli has now lost four successive Tests for the third time in his career. This is the first time it's happened while he's been captain. #IndvEng
“In that first innings India were lackadaisical. In the second innings, Kohli was back to what he was, so I imagine we’ll see more of that [animation],” Cook added.
“Was that a deliberate ploy from Kohli because it was mentioned that India preferred that relaxed style? It didn’t work for him. It’s not his natural way, so he’s got to carry on doing what he does, because they have been successful.”
Successful is an understatement. Kohli boasts an unrivalled record as India captain, having registered 33 victories in 57 matches, usurping MS Dhoni’s tally of 27 wins in 60 Tests.
Root expects a response from the hosts in the second Test, and with good reason. India’s last defeat on home soil against Australia in 2017 sparked an impressive riposte, featuring wins by 75 runs and eight wickets respectively.
England eyeing further history
Victory for England in the second Test would equal the longest winning streak by a non-Asian team in the subcontinent (7 by Australia from 2002-04)
However, Root’s captaincy has led to Kohli’s credentials being questioned, which is ironic given the conjecture surrounding the Yorkshireman’s status among the ‘fab four’ prior to England’s arrival in Asia.
Given the ever-changing dynamic in international cricket, it would be no surprise to see India respond in style in a few days’ time, but right now the cracks are appearing for Kohli, while Root is riding the crest of a wave.
Follow over-by-over text commentary of the second Test between India and England on the Sky Sports app and skysports.com from 3.30am on Saturday.
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