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Did ‘reckless’ Root dismissal cost England?

Joe Root’s dismissal on day three of the third Test against India in Rajkot sparked an England collapse of 8-95 which will again prompt discussions over the team’s ‘Bazball’ tactics and the star batter’s suitability to them.

England, having pushed their score on to 224-2 on the third morning – 221 behind India’s first-innings total – were in position to bat all day, with Ben Duckett going along nicely at the other end, on his way to a score of 153, and with the hosts down a bowler after Ravichandran Ashwin’s withdrawal mid-Test due to a family emergency.

Then, in the 40th over, Root opted to play the reverse scoop to Indian fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah and succeeded only in picking out second slip to be dismissed for 18. Roughly two hours later, England were all out for 319 and staring down the barrel of 2-1 series deficit.

“His dismissal sort of sums up where we are with Bazball. It will thrill and frustrate in equal measure,” Sky Sports’ Nasser Hussain said after the day’s play, which saw India close on 196-2, stretching their advantage in the third Test to 322.

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Nasser Hussain says India could not have hoped for better day, as the hosts built a 322-run lead over England in Rajkot

Should Root have played the shot?

“One thing Joe will look at is the timing of that shot,” Hussain said. “Ashwin wasn’t there, India are down a bowler; [Ravindra] Jadeja is playing off the back of an injury; Bumrah is playing three Tests in a row and there is talk of him needing a rest.

“Bazball is about being attacking but it is also about soaking up pressure. Get Bumrah into his second or third spell, take it deep and then play the shot later in the day.”

Another former England captain, Sir Alastair Cook, also called into question the timing of Root’s reverse scoop, despite it being one he has played before to great effect – including to the first ball on the fourth day of the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston, in arguably even more startling fashion.

“When he played it to the first ball at Edgbaston, I didn’t mind it at all because it was all about how many runs England were going to score that day to set up a game,” Cook told TNT Sports.

“It sent a real message to everyone in the changing room that England’s best player is going to take on Australia.

“Root will be sitting in his room tonight going, ‘I think I got that one wrong’.”

England throw away another dominant position

Drawing further comparisons with the 2023 Ashes series, former England fast bowler Steven Finn likened Root’s dismissal, and the team’s subsequent collapse, to the Lord’s Test last summer.

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Watch as England’s reckless batting prompts a collapse against Australia during the second Ashes Test at Lord’s

“Australia got 416 and England, just as Nathan Lyon went off injured, were 188-1 after 38 overs of their first innings – a brilliant position,” Finn told TNT Sports.

“Pat Cummins, the captain, threw all his eggs in one basket, so desperate he was for wickets that he went to the bouncer theory and England then lost three for 34 runs, giving Australia an ‘in’ in that game. They ended up losing by 43 runs and drew the Ashes 2-2.

“That was reckless, and I see similarities with that today.”

On this occasion in Rajkot, Jonny Bairstow departed for a duck in the very next over, with Duckett’s superb innings ending shortly before the lunch interval. After the break, England then proceeded to lose their final five wickets for only 20 runs.

Is there a problem with Root and Bazball?

“I said after the last Test, when there was a bit of talk about Bazball not suiting Root, the stats don’t tell you that,” Hussain added on Sky Sports News.

“He averages 51 when playing this way, with this mindset, and it’s 49 before it. Statistically, he has been better when playing this way.

“When he is playing those reverse scoops to the first ball of the day of an Ashes Test, we all jump up and applaud. When he does it to Bumrah here and gets out, we all say ‘what a disgrace’.

“Joe will assess his dismissal himself. That’s what makes him a great player. He’ll come back. He’ll be absolutely fine.”

Joe Root batting comparison on England's two most recent Test tours of India
Image: Joe Root batting comparison on England’s two most recent Test tours of India

While Hussain is correct in his assessment – Root averaging 52.63 in the Bazball era prior to this Test, compared to 49.19 before it – the visitors are undoubtedly struggling to get the best out of their star batter in this series, with Root’s run tally standing at only 70 through five innings.

On their previous tour of India in 2021, Root scored 368 runs in eight innings at an average of 46.00. His career average through 23 Tests in the sub-continent is 49.23, with seven fifties and five hundreds – though, across the last eight of those, he is averaging only 19.13.

Root retains backing of his team-mates

“Inside the Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum changing room, there will be absolutely no repercussions for the shot,” Cook added on TNT Sports. “There can’t be – you can’t have it both ways.

“For the players to have the freedom to play the shots like Ben Duckett was playing yesterday, the way that Zak Crawley plays, there can’t be any of that negativity in the the changing room.”

England's Ben Duckett (Associated Press)
Image: Ben Duckett struck a magnificent 153 but struggled for support as England were dismissed for 319 in their first innings

Duckett certainly came out in support of his team-mate after the close of play on day three.

“Rooty is a freak and does things that a lot of us can’t do,” the England opener said. “I’d be interested to know if those people were against it when he was doing it to Pat Cummins and hitting him for six in last summer’s Ashes.

“I’ve no words for it. It’s the same as me playing a reverse sweep and getting caught at point. Options are practised and that shot has been very successful for him over the past year, so next time it may go over slip.”

England will certainly hope that’s the case and will be banking on a sizeable contribution from Root as they attempt to battle their way back into this Test over the final two days.

Finn said: “This England team lives on the precipice of reckless and positive, and it’s very hard sometimes to determine which side of that line you’re going to fall on.

“If we’re willing to accept the way that Ben Duckett played yesterday, if we’re willing to accept some of the brilliant, amazing things that have led to winning Test matches over the last two years, you have to accept that this is going to happen sometimes.”

Follow over-by-over text commentary from the third Test between India and England, live on skysports.com and the Sky Sports App from 3.45am on Sunday (first ball at 4am).

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