England captain Joe Root was closing in on yet another century as his side added to India’s woes by piling on the runs in the third Test at Headingley on Thursday.
At tea on the second day, England were 298-3, a lead of 220, as they looked to level this five-match series at 1-1 after a 151-run defeat in the second Test at Lord’s.
Root was 80 not out on his Yorkshire home ground after India had been dismissed for just 78 on Wednesday after their skipper, Virat Kohli, decided to bat first upon winning the toss.
One sadness for England was that Dawid Malan was out for 70 to the last ball before tea when it seemed the world’s top-ranked T20 batsman might mark his return to Test cricket after a three-year absence with a hundred.
It needed an India review to confirm left-hander Malan had glanced Mohammed Siraj down the legside to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant to end a partnership of 139 with Root.
With openers Rory Burns (61) and Haseeb Hameed (68) also making half-centuries, this was the first time all of England’s top four had made a fifty in the same Test innings since a match against New Zealand at Dunedin in 2013.
England’s lack of top-order runs had been so acute they’ve failed to reach 50 before losing their second wicket 16 times in 20 Test innings this year.
But Wednesday saw Root walk into bat with England well-placed at 159-2.
England resumed on 120-0, after veteran spearhead James Anderson had ripped through India’s top order during a return of 3-6 in eight overs to spark a dramatic collapse.
Burns was then 52 not out and Hameed 60 not out.
England’s 22nd opening partnership since Andrew Strauss retired in 2012 were separated, however, before lunch.
Left-hander Burns had added just nine runs when he was bowled playing down the wrong line to Mohammed Shami, with England now 135-1.
New batsman Malan, recalled after England dropped the struggling Dom Sibley, got off the mark with a cover-driven boundary off Jasprit Bumrah and followed that shot up with two more fours off Siraj.
Hameed, promoted to open in place of Sibley after his five-year exile from Test cricket ended with him managing just nine runs in total at Lord’s, had looked in excellent touch on Wednesday.
But he added just eight runs to his overnight score and had spent 28 deliveries on 68 when he was bowled by Ravindra Jadeja, who produced a classic slow left-armer’s delivery that turned away from the batsman’s forward defensive shot – the first wicket taken by an Indian spinner this series.
Root, who made 109 in the drawn first Test at Trent Bridge and a brilliant 180 not out at Lord’s, looked in excellent touch when guiding Shami for two fours in three balls behind square on the offside.
India took the new ball as soon as they could, with England 226-2 off 80 overs.
But the runs kept coming, with Root going to fifty in style with a back-foot forcing shot through point for four – his seventh boundary in 57 balls faced.
Malan then square-cut a four off Shami to go to 49 before a single off the paceman saw him to a 99-ball fifty including eight boundaries.
England’s players and the umpires all wore black armbands in memory of Ted Dexter after it was announced earlier Thursday that the former England captain had died aged 86.