Surprisingly, England made batting in India look easy after day one of the first test at Chennai, closing on 263-3, after 89.3 overs.
Dom Sibley, who couldn't score against spin in the summer, and couldn't survive in Sri Lanka, looked a different player, as he first shuffled, then swept, before finally showing some flair, on his way to 87. While he will have been gutted to be dismissed by Jasprit Bumrah on what conspired to be the last ball of the day, his resolute defence, combined with a growing showmanship against the spin, set England up with a good first day. While he couldn't make his third hundred, it was, in my view, his finest knock in an England shirt, and affirmed that he is not just good, but talented, and improving.
The story of the day though, belonged to England skipper Joe Root. He marked his hundredth test with his twentieth century, finishing unbeaten on 128. While the pitch was relatively flat, he joined Sibley on 63-2, and faced some very good bowling from Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, and Ishant Sharma after lunch. However, he survived this spell, accelerated, and looked in imperious touch by the end. Should he reach 151 before dismissal, his average will remain above 50.
Root was 12 off 53 at one stage, having not played his now trademark sweep. With 40 overs bowled, he and England, could have came unstuck at 86/2. However, he took apart Shahbaz Nadeem and Washington Sundar, his renewed aggression convincing Sibley to venture forward from his crease. This aggression from Root never ceased, as he made 116 off 144, with all of his 14 fours, and a six, coming in this part of the innings.
It feels as though Root is back to his 2014-2016 best, where he got in, and then scored with ease. But he has never done it this well. Three hundreds in three tests of 2021 is mighty, and even more so, given that Root has never scored more than three hundreds in a calendar year. The immaculate technique is back, but added is a conversion rate, and hunger for runs, like never before. I wrote before the series in Sri Lanka that this year would define his career. If he continues in this rich form, he will go down as England's great.
Burns' reverse England's wobble at 63-2 came after Rory Burns attempted a reverse-sweep off Ashwin just before lunch, exposing Dan Lawrence. To be clear, it was a stupid shot in the circumstances. But is it a stupid shot overall? Had he got out playing a normal sweep, would we be less annoyed? The situation was obviously wrong to play it, but I think the reverse-sweep is now a normal shot, like your cut or glance. And so while the moment was wrong, the shot is part of modern cricket.
Channel 4 Other than it being Root's 100th test, the hype before this game focused on cricket's return to free-to-air TV In the UK, with Channel 4 showing the game. I didn't really notice, as the commentary was the host broadcasters, and while I love Sir Alistair Cook's analysis, having just home and host Rishi Persad felt lacking. Perhaps they were hampered by the lateness of the deal, but a second analyst would be needed, to avoid what felt like a one-sided Q+A.
Are England good now? I was pleasantly surprised by how well England did today. But, the pitch was flat, two of India's bowlers were rubbish, and India will bat just as well. Now, should we push on for 500, and find a way to take 20 wickets, then I'd be more optimistic, but I don't think we should be excited just yet. I don't want to see Ollie Pope or Jos Buttler batting until after lunch tomorrow, and we could easily collapse, but Sibley and Root have shown the way.