Former England captain Nasser Hussain is mighty impressed to see the way Joe Root managed his resources on the second day of the fourth Test against India in Southampton.
At one stage, India were placed at 142/2 with Kohli and Pujara looking ominous. However, England pulled things back courtesy some smart bowling changes and thoughtful field placing from skipper Root.
“Joe Root had an excellent day as captain. The way he shuffled his pack, defended a relatively small total and used Moeen Ali was exceptional,” Hussain wrote in his column for Daily Mail.
“Whenever you look at India in the field it is always clear Virat Kohli is in charge but with England it can sometimes be a bit more of a team effort. I don't have a problem with that because you want 11 leaders out there, but when I looked out on the Ageas Bowl on Friday, I knew exactly who was captain and I would like to see Root showing more of that authority in the field,” he added.
Nasser also pointed out how Root didn’t agree with the veteran speedster Stuart Broad when the latter was placing the third man as per his choice.
“Nothing summed up Root's captaincy more than an incident early in the middle session when Stuart Broad, as he often does, was speaking to Jimmy Anderson about where he wanted his third man,” Hussain wrote.
“Root, positioned at second slip, was quite clear where he wanted the fielder to be. Broad moved the third man without consulting Root but the captain said, 'No, calm down, I want him there.' When Broad tried to do it again Root made it pretty clear who was in charge and got his way. If anything Root could have been a bit stronger but I liked the fact he showed his senior men that the buck stopped with him,” he explained the turn of events.
Off-spinner Moeen Ali tormented India’s middle order to bring England back into the game. Ali picked up four wickets in quick succession to reduce the visitors from 181/4 to 195/8. He got rid of Rishabh Pant (0), Hardik Pandya (4), Ravichandran Ashwin (1) and Mohammad Shami (0) within the span of 21 deliveries. Moeen broke the 32-run partnership between Pujara and Ishant Sharma (14) to complete his fifth five-wicket haul in Test cricket.
“This was a good bowling display from England, particularly Moeen Ali. Moeen is such an anomaly. He likes to be under the radar, picked as a second spinner after Adil Rashid and treated as a bit of a bonus. That's when he's at his best,” Nasser penned it down.
“When the onus is on him as the only spinner, as it was during the Ashes in Australia last winter, he can feel the heat, but he is an exceptional cricketer, albeit one who sums up England's dilemma. He is brilliant at home but not so great away. The bottom line is that, in England, I would always have Moeen in the side as the spinner along with four seamers. We will worry about the Sri Lanka and West Indies tours later,” he continued.
Coming to the match, England are 6/0 in their second innings with Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings batting on 2 and 4 respectively. The hosts are currently tailing India by 21 runs. Even though the visitors are looking statistically ahead right now, anything above 150 to chase in the fourth innings is a tough task and Nasser feels the same.
“It's remarkable how quickly this Southampton pitch has become spin-friendly and it could be a cracking game now, but it is a myth that all Indian players are good players of spin. If the England batsmen can just give them something to play with, Moeen and Rashid could easily bowl India out in the last innings to clinch the series,” Hussain concluded.