South Africa face a battle to avoid another first-innings deficit after Anrich Nortje's fine work with the ball was undone by a rocky reply to Pakistan's 272 in the second Test.

Pakistan had made 145-3 on day one before rain intervened and Nortje was the cause of their frustration when play resumed on Friday, snaring 5-56 to put the hosts in the field before tea.

But the Proteas' solid early efforts with the bat - including a string of boundaries - were disrupted by Hasan Ali, who removed Dean Elgar (15) and Rassie van der Dussen from consecutive deliveries.

With those wickets right at the end of the second session, the day turned and Faf du Plessis followed to Faheem Ashraf for 17.

Nauman Ali - sublime in the first Test as Pakistan dominated - then teed up a simple but crucial catch for Shaheed Afridi to remove Aiden Markram (32), reducing South Africa to 81-4 before a mini-recovery to 106 without further loss preceded the close of play.

It ended a day of two halves as the Proteas, just like a day earlier, enjoyed a productive first session, with Babar Azam unable to add to his overnight score of 77, edging Nortje to second slip from just the second ball of the day.

Fawad Alam (45), who had held up the other end of a vital partnership on Thursday, swiftly followed, too, run out with a superb direct hit from Temba Bavuma.

Faheem steadied the Pakistan innings slightly, although Nortje's decision to take the second new ball soon paid dividends as he halted Mohammad Rizwan (18) in his next over.

That dismissal ended a promising stand of 41 and Faheem eventually ran out of partners, still unbeaten on 78 as Nortje concluded the innings and his five-for with fierce deliveries to Nauman and Shaheen in the same over.

Only if South Africa can regain some composure with the bat will Nortje be able to celebrate his contribution to a much-needed win, which would be their first in 14 Tests on the subcontinent.


HASAN ALI HAVING HIS SAY

Hasan has endured a tough time with injury in the past few years, returning to the Test arena in this series for the first time since January 2019. If the fast bowler was merely playing a supporting role to the spinners in the opening match last week, this was a more telling contribution, potentially changing the course of the result.

SOUTH AFRICA TURN TO SKIPPER

Quinton de Kock would appear to be taking charge of his final Test match as South Africa captain but may now have to rediscover his best form to make sure it is not a losing swan song. The skipper has not made a Test fifty since January 2020 or a hundred since October 2019, yet the Proteas were reeling as he arrived at the crease on Friday, able to settle the innings a little by dashing to an unbeaten 24 at stumps.

Joe Root once again led from the front for England, marking his 100th Test match with another glorious hundred against India in Chennai.

Visiting captain Root came to the crease before lunch on day one of the first Test after the tourists lost Rory Burns and Dan Lawrence, the latter for nought, with the score on 63.

Alongside opener Dom Sibley, who was trapped lbw for a typically robust 87 by Jasprit Bumrah from the final ball of the day, Root came through a stern examination before making hay as the India attack tired.

It was another sparkling display from the 30-year-old right-hander, whose 128 not out followed scores of 228 and 186 during last month's 2-0 win in Sri Lanka and left England 263-3 at stumps.

Rory Burns was back at the top of the England order having sat out the previous tour due to the birth of his first child and the Surrey left-hander looked in fine touch after Root won the toss, delightfully clipping Ravichandran Ashwin through midwicket after he and Sibley brought up the fifty partnership.

But Ashwin (1-68) had his revenge in an awful moment for Burns, who misjudged a reverse sweep to loop a simple catch to wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant and depart for 33.

Lawrence was promoted up the order after Zak Crawley was ruled out with a sprained wrist, and India skipper Virat Kohli decided to see how he might fare against quality pace bowling. He soon had an answer as Bumrah (2-40) found reverse swing to pin the Essex man in front.

Root survived a strong lbw appeal from Ishant Sharma and he and Sibley were forced to dig in against some high standard bowling either side of lunch.

Again displaying impeccable balance and judgement, Root initially put away the sweep shot that served him so well in Sri Lanka and was watchful against Ashwin and slow left-armer Shahbaz Nadeem on a surface displaying more bounce than expected.

He started to move through the repertoire when all-rounder Washington Sundar entered the attack. The partnership was 77 when England reached tea at 140-2, with Sibley through to a half-century.

They motored on in the evening session, with Root reaching three figures with a trademark tuck behind square into the leg side before shedding his earlier inhibitions and bludgeoning Ashwin for a slog-swept six. He must continue on Saturday without Sibley, whose 286-ball vigil came to a cruel end.

Bangladesh kept a firm grip on the first Test against the West Indies on Friday, leading by 218 runs with seven second-innings wickets still in hand at Chattogram.

England captain Joe Root has become the ninth player in history to score a century in his 100th Test match.

The 30-year-old made his milestone appearance on day one of the first Test against India in Chennai on Friday.

During a terrific third-wicket stand with Dom Sibley, Root marked a memorable day with the 20th Test ton of his international career off just 164 balls.

Only eight players have previously celebrated a century of Test caps by scoring 100 runs, the last being Hashim Amla, who scored 134 for South Africa against Sri Lanka in January 2017.

The highest such score for a centurion is 149, set by Gordon Greenidge for the West Indies against England back in April 1990.

Root is just the third Englishman on the list, following Colin Cowdrey in 1968 and Alec Stewart in 2000.

England lost Rory Burns for 33 and Dan Lawrence for a duck before Root and Sibley began to nullify the India attack.

England were 227-2 as Root celebrated a third century in as many Tests, with Sibley on 83 from 250 deliveries.

India all-rounder Axar Patel has been ruled out of the opening Test against England, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced on Friday.

Patel, 27, will sit out the first of four Tests after complaining of pain in his left knee following Thursday's training session.

As a result, spinners Shahbaz Nadeem and Rahul Chahar have been added to the squad, with the opening Test due to get underway in Chennai on Friday.

India are coming off a series victory over Australia, where they were depleted due to injuries in the blockbuster showdown.

Virat Kohli's India have managed to win each of their last 10 multi-game bilateral Test series played on home soil, that run beginning after they suffered a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of England in 2012.

No visiting men's Test side have beaten India at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium during the 21st Century (D3 L5) – Pakistan being the last team to do so in the format (1999).

England have managed to record five overseas Test wins in succession ahead of this match - their longest such run since 1914 (seven in a row between 1911 and 1914).

Joe Root is set to become the 15th man to appear in 100 Test matches for England and has the chance to equal Michael Vaughan's record of 26 Test wins as England skipper (currently 25).

West Indies captain, Jason Holder, admits he is disappointed by questions about his commitment to the team, which have come to the fore following his decision not to take part in the ongoing tour of Bangladesh.

Holder was one of 12 first-team players to opt-out of the tour, citing health and safety concerns as the primary reasons.  The player and others opting out of the tour were roundly criticised in some quarters, with Holder taking the brunt as the leader of the unit.

From his perspective, however, Holder believes he has more than proved his commitment to West Indies cricket over the years.

“A lot of people just don’t understand.  I would hate to think people would question my commitment to West Indies cricket,” Holder told the Mason and Guest radio program. 

“Over the last five, six, seven years I’ve been on the road.  Eight years consistently I’ve played for the West Indies.  I’ve had tons of opportunities to go abroad and play domestic, T20 leagues.  I could have done county cricket, well I have done it, but I’ve had opportunities to go around the world and I’ve always put West Indies cricket first,” he added.

“So, for people to come now and question my commitment that shows me that people just don’t understand.  My reasons for not going to Bangladesh, yes I had concerns over the integrity of the bubble, but it was mostly mental fatigue.”

West Indies captain, Kraigg Brathwaite, has targeted forming crucial partnerships as the team continues its pursuit of Bangladesh’s first innings total when play resumes on day 3.

The opening batsman has led by example for far, as he dug in for a patient 49 of 81 balls to anchor the early chase of Bangladesh’s first innings score of 430.

In terms of building partnerships, however, the team has already had some early wobbles with John Campbell (3) and Shayne Moseley (2) being sent back to the pavilion early.  Both were dismissed by Mustafizur Rahman.

Brathwaite will no doubt be hoping that Nkrumah Bonner, who had a solid showing in the three-day warm-up match against the Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, will be part of the first significant partnership of the innings.  Bonner has so far stroked a watchful 17 from 58 balls.

“It’s key to get runs on the board.  We did well getting to 70-odd for two and we just have to look to build partnerships tomorrow,” Brathwaite said at the end of play.

“I’m looking for a big first innings, which will be crucial, a big first-innings total on the board,” he added.

The batsman believes the team should be aided by a pitch that is good for batting, which he expects to hold up.

“I thought it (pitch) played well today.  Not much spin, some balls did spin but the bounce is quite true, it’s not too low.  I think it will hold up for the next day, day and a half and possibly, day four, day five, it will start to wear a little bit,” he added.

 

Joe Root is used to reaching milestones, but the batsman will bring up a special Test century when he leads England in the series opener against India.  

For Root, the game in Chennai – the first of four in the series – will see him make his 100th Test appearance. He will become just the 15th Englishman to get to the landmark in the format and the 69th overall. 

The fresh-faced 21-year-old who made his debut in India in 2012 is now a fresh-faced 30-year-old considered one of the best in the world, with his memories of that maiden outing still helping to shape the player he is.

"Walking out for the first time in an England shirt would probably be the proudest moment," he said.

"I look back at walking out to bat and seeing Kevin Pietersen at the other end, someone I watched as a teenager and as a kid growing up, and I just couldn't stop smiling. I was living my childhood dream and have been ever since.

"Whenever I'm going through a lean spell or things aren't quite falling for me, I try to look back at that moment and remember what that feeling was like – almost try and embrace that really excitable young lad and bring that into the current situation."

THE HIGHS AND LOWS AHEAD OF A BUSY YEAR 

To say 2021 will be a busy year for Root is an understatement. While not currently part of England's plans in Twenty20 cricket, meaning he seems set to miss out on the World Cup in India in October and November, there is plenty on the Test captain's plate.  

The tour to India will see England play four of their scheduled 17 Tests across the calendar year, a schedule that includes a home series against the same opponents, the visit of ICC Test Championship finalists New Zealand and, after that busy summer, the small matter of an Ashes tour.  

He made an outstanding start with 426 runs on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, helping England secure a 2-0 series sweep that extended their winning streak overseas to five matches, their best run away since 1914.  

Yet Root went into that tour off the back of a below-par year. His top score in 2020 was 68, though he still finished with an average of 42.2, narrowly better than 2018 (41.2) and 2019 (37). The right-hander managed as many three-figure scores in January as he recorded across the previous two years combined.  

If England are to prosper on what will undoubtedly be a long and tough road ahead, Root will need to lead from the front. Captaincy has seen his batting numbers suffer – he averages 45.7 as skipper, compared to 52.8 beforehand – but the signs are some tinkering during time off has allowed him to rediscover his best form at just the right time.

RUNS ON TOUR, FANTASTIC AT FOUR 

India has been a happy destination for Root on previous trips, including hitting 124 in the drawn series opener on the 2016 tour. It was also the country where he made his Test bow, four years earlier. Batting at six, an innings of 73 offered a demonstration of his undoubted skill. 

The Yorkshireman has had plenty of other good moments against India: they are one of five opposing nations he has scored over 1,000 Test runs against. Only Alastair Cook (seven) has managed it against more countries for England.  

Australia is also on that list for Root, who will be hoping to improve on a career average of 38 when he heads Down Under again later this year. His first tour there in 2013-14 was particularly tough, with a run of low scores leading to him being left out of the XI in Sydney. It was a rare low point, while also serving as motivation to make sure it never happened again.  

His 2017-18 tour was more productive, albeit without a three-figure score. Conversion rates are often used as a measurement when comparing the leading names, and Root’s numbers – 19 centuries but 49 scores between 50 and 99 – have been used against him when held up alongside Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson.  

The needs of the team have seen him moved up and down the order, away from his favoured place at four. That position has seen him score 10 of his Test hundreds, while only Kevin Pietersen (6,490) and Denis Compton (4,234) have amassed more runs when occupying that spot for England.  

"I know previous captains have preferred to get out there early and just get amongst it but I quite like to split the two and to really focus on my batting," he said in November 2019 during a tour to New Zealand. "I've found over time that, generally, I've consistently played better in that position."  

The numbers back up his statement; Root has a 52.2 average when listed at four in the batting order. Only at five (69.1) has he done better, albeit with a far smaller sample size.

ENGLAND EXPECTS AND THE PURSUIT OF TENDULKAR 

During his brilliant double hundred in the first Test in Sri Lanka, Root became the seventh Englishman to reach 8,000 runs in the format.   

By the end of the trip, he had moved past Geoffrey Boycott, Pietersen and David Gower on the all-time run-scoring list for his country – and it is unlikely he will have to wait long to overtake two more legendary names.  

Root’s tally after 99 Tests stands at 8,249 runs. Alec Stewart (8,463) and Graham Gooch (8,900) are firmly in his sights, particularly when you consider the number of games to come this year.  

However, Cook is well clear at the top. The opening batsman and former skipper finished with 12,472 runs in 161 appearances. Only four men in the history of the game have managed more, Sachin Tendulkar (15,921 runs in 200 Tests) leading the way.  

Could Root potentially chase Tendulkar down? He is about to hit the halfway point in terms of number of games in the head-to-head comparison, yet is ahead of schedule in terms of output. He has only missed two Test matches since his debut, while a decision at some stage along the line to focus solely on the longest format of the game could extend his Test career even further. 

Such talk of individual records is likely to be of little concern for the man himself, though. Reaching 100 Tests is an impressive achievement for Root, who will hope it is not his last century in the months to come. 

West Indies captain Jason Holder has lashed out at the former greats who constantly criticize the current team without providing solutions.

Babar Azam and Fawad Alam halted a worrying start to the second Test between Pakistan and South Africa before rain stopped play at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium on Thursday.

Pakistan won the opening Test but lost three wickets for just one run as they were reduced to 22-3 in a promising first session for the Proteas on day one.

However, like he did with a century in Karachi last week, Fawad (42no) helped get the hosts back on track by establishing a 123-run partnership with captain Babar (77no).

The pair displayed some wonderful shots as they took the match to South Africa, with Babar racking up 12 fours and Fawad five but rain during tea stopped them returning on 145-3.

Keshav Maharaj would have had a first-ball wicket had Temba Bavuma held on to Imran Butt (15) at first slip on 13 but he got his man courtesy of a sharp catch from wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock, making his final appearance as Test captain.

Maharaj (2-51) had Azhar Ali lbw for a duck in his next over and Pakistan looked in serious trouble when Aiden Markram reacted brilliantly at short leg after Anrich Nortje's rapid delivery struck Abid Ali (6) on the thigh and zoomed towards him.

However, Babar responded by getting off the mark with back-to-back boundaries and, alongside Karachi hero Fawad, steered the hosts to lunch without further loss.

The duo continued to assert themselves and Babar brought up his 16th Test half-century and took Pakistan into triple figures with a fine shot in front of square.

Kagiso Rabada thought he had made the breakthrough but his appeal for lbw against Babar was ignored, with replays showing the skipper sent an inside edge onto his pads.

South Africa were unable to break the impressive fourth-wicket stand before tea and heavy rainfall denied them the chance to make further inroads during the final session.

 

PEAKY LINDE

George Linde left the field during the first session for an X-ray after hurting a finger on his left bowling hand while fielding.

He did not sustain a fracture but received stitches and practiced bowling with protective strapping on before stepping back inside the ropes before tea.

Linde did not bowl another over, but the Proteas will be hoping he can do so before the end of the match, with Dean Elgar having stepped up as a second spin option.

Bangladesh are in a commanding position at stumps of the second day of the first Test against the West Indies as Mehidy Hasan Miraz scored his maiden Test century to help steer the home side to 430 all out at Chattogram. At the end of play, the West Indies were 75 for 2 still 355 runs behind.

With Bangladesh resuming from their overnight 242 for 5, with Shakib Al Hasan on 39 and Liton Bas on 34, the West Indies had an early breakthrough when Warrican, 3 for 58 overnight, bowled Das for 38 to have the home side 248 for 6.

However, the visitors were made to toil as Mehidy Hasan Miraz scored his first Test century while featuring in three partnerships that spurred a lower-order rally that gradually pushed his side into the ascendancy.

Mehidy put on 67 with Shakib Al Hasan (68) for the seventh wicket, 44 with Taijul Islam (18) for the eighth and then 57 with Nayeem Hasan (42) for the ninth before finally losing his wicket to Rahkeem Cornwall for 103.

The West Indies were made to pay for dropping him twice, on 24 and then on 85. He was first let off the hook by debutant Shayne Moseley who put him down at silly mid-off despite having two chances to hold on. The second chance was spilt by Cornwall at slip off the bowling of Nkrumah Bonner.

Warrican ended with figures of 4 for 133 while Cornwall had 2 for 114. There was a wicket each for Bonner, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.

In reply, the West Indies found batting difficult against the swing and accuracy of fast-medium bowler Mustafizur Rahman who trapped John Campbell (3) and Shayne Moseley (2) lbw as the visitors slumped to 24 for 2.

However, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite survived a few anxious moments to get to the close unbeaten on 49. Bonner is at the other end on 17.

Zak Crawley will miss England's first two Tests against India after suffering a sprained wrist.

The batsman sustained the setback when he slipped outside the dressing room in Chennai on Tuesday.

He will now be sidelined for the opening pair of fixtures as England head into a four-match series with Virat Kohli's side.

"Following the results of last night's scan, England top-order batsman Zak Crawley has been ruled out of the first two Tests of the India versus England series," read Thursday's statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board.

"Scan results have confirmed that Crawley has jarred his right wrist, which has sprained the joint and led to local inflammation.

"The Kent player sustained the injury during England's practice in Chennai on Tuesday when he slipped on the marble floor leaving the dressing rooms onto the field of play.

"The England medical team will continue to assess his progress over the next few weeks."

Crawley opened in Sri Lanka in the absence of Rory Burns but looked set to move to number three at M. A. Chidambaram Stadium after Jonny Bairstow was rested.

England will now have to rethink the order, although there was positive news over Ollie Pope, who has recovered from a shoulder injury and could make his comeback after being added to the squad.

India are favourites to carry on where they left off in Australia and spoil England captain Joe Root's 100th Test in Chennai.

Depleted India defied the odds to come from behind and secure a 2-1 series win in Australia despite being without a host of key players, including captain Virat Kohli.

Kohli returns from paternity leave to lead the side after Ajinkya Rahane filled in superbly in his absence, while Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Ravichandran Ashwin have recovered from injuries but Ravindra Jadeja (broken thumb) misses out.

India are in pole position to seal their place in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final against New Zealand, but England and Australia can also qualify.

In-form skipper Root will become the 15th England player to win a century of Test caps when the four-match series starts at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday.

Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns return, while Jonny Bairstow, Mark Wood and Sam Curran have been given a rest following the recent 2-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka.

The tourists could be without Zak Crawley after the batsman injured his right wrist when slipping outside the changing room, but Ollie Pope is poised to make his comeback from a shoulder injury.

England have won just one Test series in India since 1984-85, losing four and drawing one since then other than a triumph in 2012.

 

What are the Test Championship permutations?

The postponement of the series between South Africa and Australia ensured the Black Caps will play in the first Test Championship final.

Kane Williamson's side will face India at Lord's if they beat England 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1 or 4-0.

England must win at least three matches in India to set up another final against New Zealand, so Root's men are very much outsiders. 

Australia will qualify if England win the series without winning three matches, while they will also take on their trans-Tasman rivals if the series is drawn or India come out on top 1-0.

 

Centurion Root leading by example 

Root failed to make a hundred for England last year, but the prolific captain showed class is permanent in Sri Lanka.

The 30-year-old made a magnificent 228 in his first innings of the series and struck a brilliant 186 in the second Test, making a strong statement at the start of a hectic year for England.

Root averaged 106.50 as he delivered a masterclass of how to bat against spin and will be relishing the battle with the India attack.

He is just one win away from matching Michael Vaughan's record of 26 Test wins as England skipper and achieving that feat in the Yorkshireman's 100th match would be extra special.

 


KEY MATCH FACTS

- Four of the last five Test series between the two sides have been won by England, who eased to a 4-1 victory when they last did battle in 2018.

- India have won their last 10 multi-game bilateral Test series on home soil, that run beginning after they suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of England in 2012.

- India have recorded five wins to England's three when facing off against each other at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. India have won three in a row at the Chennai venue.

- No touring side has won at M.A. Chidambaram Stadium during the 21st century (D3 L5) – Pakistan being the last team to do so in the format (1999).

- England are on a run five away Test wins in succession – their longest such run since 1914 (seven in a row between 1911 and 1914).

England batsman, Tom Banton, believes rising West Indies star Nicholas Pooran could be the best six-hitter in the game at the moment.

The 25-year-old has seen his stock rise after a big-hitting display in the Indian Premier League (IPL) last year, a trend that he has continued in the Abu Dhabi T10 league.  In a league with the likes of his West Indian compatriot Chris Gayle and Chris Lynn, it is Pooran who leads the way with 33 sixes and 21 fours in 9 matches.

In fact, Nicholas Pooran has scored more runs from fours and sixes than Gayle - his 89 off 24 balls for Northern Warriors against Bangla Tigers last month included 84 runs from boundaries, while Gayle chalked up 78 in his savage 84 off just 22 balls on Wednesday.

"He's different level that guy," Banton said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo

"Anyone that bowls to him, he'll get hold of. I reckon he's the best in the world at the minute at [hitting sixes],” he added.

"We're actually playing them in a few days' time so I'm going to try and talk to him and actually see what he does. He probably doesn't do anything different to anyone else, he's just a lot better than everyone else."

Pooran’s Northern Warriors are currently second in the Super League standings but are at the top of group A.

Chris Gayle plundered 84 runs from 22 balls as Team Abu Dhabi defeated Maratha Arabians by nine wickets in the Abu Dhabi T10 earlier today.

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