YORKSHIRE’S Joe Root has needed to fight more fires in England collapses than he will care to remember, but will put those experiences to good use in a recovery of sorts against India.
It was hardly an unaccustomed position for Root, after last winter’s unending scrapes against Mitchell Johnson, to find himself responding to a sudden abdication of batting resources around him on day three of the first Investec Test at Trent Bridge.
The loss of six wickets for 68 barely registered on the scale of several collapses Down Under, but it still left Root trying to extricate the hosts from 202-7 in reply to India’s 457 all out.
Even the follow-on mark appeared distant at one stage of the afternoon, yet by stumps, Root (78no) was the cornerstone presence in a counter-attacking stand of 78 with Stuart Broad and then more defiance alongside No 11 James Anderson.
Another 54 more runs were added and England were able to close on a still very vulnerable 352-9.
That they hit such trouble against Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar – who shared seven wickets on the docile pitch – was especially concerning after half-centuries from Root’s Yorkshire team-mate Gary Ballance (71) and Sam Robson (59) had carried them to the apparent serenity of 134-1.
Root acknowledged that as he reflected on a fine hand from Broad, and how England can improve their reaction when adversity suddenly strikes.
“Obviously, it’s not ideal,” said the 23-year-old Yorkshireman.
“We’d like to make sure we, as batters, contribute more.
“But it’s a team game ultimately, and everybody has a responsibility with the bat to get as many runs as possible.
“We’re in the position we are, and we’ve got to front up and deal with it.”
Root struggled early on but flourished in partnership with Broad, particularly after tea as he passed his 50 in 102 balls.
“We knew our backs were against the wall,” Root said.
“We had to fight, and I thought the way we responded after tea was fantastic.
“I thought Broady came out and put a lot of pressure back on India.
“The way Stuart came out and played made it a lot easier for me to come out and play the way I did.
“I thought that was a phenomenal knock from Broady, to come out and play that bravely.
“The rest of the lads that came in followed that up, and Jimmy towards the end was sensational and took a lot of the pressure off me.”
England had nonetheless found plenty of their own trouble, and much damage to any prospects of winning this match was done in the overs after India persuaded the umpires to change an out-of-shape ball when the score was 146-2.
Ishant was impressive immediately after lunch, and Root added: “I think that ball change obviously played a big part in the game, and we didn’t quite respond to it well enough.
“We’re going to have to make sure we do recognise those periods, and front up a bit sooner.
“I thought when we did realise it and did regroup we were brilliant. So I hope that’s something we can learn from and get better at.”
As for his own batting, he admitted he was out of sync at first and only gradually attuned himself to conditions once rarely associated with England.
“It was just one of those days, and I had to get through that initial 20 or 30 balls and fight my way through it,” Root said.
“You’ve got to give a bit of credit to India. The way they bowled in that middle session was very good and put a lot of pressure on us.
“But the promising thing is that we came out after tea and put it straight back on to them.”
Ishant was the pivotal presence – responsible for the wickets of Ballance, Robson and Ian Bell – and later confirmed he feels very much at home bowling on a surface akin to his native Delhi.
“We are familiar with these kind of wickets because in India we also get them,” said the tall seamer. “We can’t control these things. We are touring England – England is not touring India.”
It has not always seemed that way in a match played on one of the slowest surfaces ever prepared for international cricket in this country.