The England captain marked the occasion with his 20th century, showing supreme assurance across an innings that is still going.
He will pick up on day two in Chennai with 128 to his name from 197 deliveries, split from his partner of 200 for the third wicket after Dom Sibley fell for 87 to Jasprit Bumrah. Ben Stokes, in at number four, will face up first on Saturday with England 263 for three.
But Root was somewhat lacking in composure when asked to run-through the four changes from the previous Test in Sri Lanka after winning the toss and opting to bat first. On the cusp of a milestone he has been working towards since a debut in India in December 2012, he momentarily lost himself.
“I was a little bit emotional,” he admitted. “ I couldn’t even remember our team when they asked me about it!” Ollie Pope, due in at five, was the player he stumbled on, with Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns the others returning to the XI.
“I was a little bit all over the place but thankfully when I got out there I knew it was business as normal and I had a job to do. The guys have made it very special for me and I really appreciate it. It’s been an amazing two days. It will be nice if we can make this brilliant start count now and hopefully build on what is a brilliant first day.”
On Thursday evening, the team surprised Root with a gathering to commemorate becoming the 15th Englishman to a century of Tests. It featured a video of well-wishes from friends, family, cricket’s past and present and celebrities such as Harry Kane, Ed Sheeran and his beloved football club Sheffield United, including their manager Chris Wilder. Stokes, his vice-captain and long-time friend, also gave a speech.
“Last night the guys actually put a little surprise together for me - put some videos from some past players, some friends and family. And Ben, in particular, stood up and said some really kind words. Then to come today and for us to start this series in the way that we have - it couldn't have gone any better bar a little blip at the end there so I really hope that we can build on that tomorrow and obviously delighted with how things have gone personally.
“I’ll remember that. I think that should stay between the two of us and the group [the speech] but Ben’s a fine human being and it was really nice of him to go out of his way to say some very special things that I will hold dear forever.”
It was almost predictable he would become only the third Englishman to register three figures in his 100th Test, after Colin Cowdrey and Alec Stewart. This was his third century in as many matches in 2021 after one each in the two-match series against Sri Lanka. At present, he has 554 runs at an average of 138 and has already equalled a calendar-year haul achieved in 2013 and 2014. With 17 Tests still to play, he should at least double that previous best.
“I certainly feel like I'm in some good form,” answered the 30-year-old when asked if this was a unique purple patch in a decorated career. “I need to make sure I cash in on it I think over the course of my career, I've not always gone on and made really big scores so to be going and doing that currently is really pleasing.
“And the challenge will be if I keep getting myself in positions to make big hundreds then I've got to keep taking them and we're gonna win more games if I'm doing that. So hopefully I can kick on tomorrow personally but most importantly, we can have a better day than today or match it and then we could be in a really strong position in this game.”
The late dismissal of Dom Sibley for 87 ended a 200-run partnership with Root for the third wicket. Stokes will join Root on Saturday as England look to build a commanding first innings total.
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