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Joe Root – He came, he saw, he conquered
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Welcome to a Joe Root masterclass. Unlike AB de Villiers, who played his 100th Test amid much fanfare in India, Root's historic moment came in an empty stadium in the silence of Chepauk. But the delicious cover drives, reverse-sweeps, clips, flicks, pulls and punches - this was pure gratification.Somewhere in the world of Steven Smith's madman consistency, Virat Kohli's overpowering persona, Kane Williamson's gentlemanly class and Babar Azam's crazy potential, we forget Joe Root. And we are as guilty as his dwindling Test form over the last couple of years. But when he is in his element/trance, he's a different class altogether. The masterfulness and ease with which he dominates opposition sets him apart. Someone watching Joe Root for the first time today would be surprised to know that Joe isn't from India as he looked more at home than even the hosts. This was a massive test. Not only because the right-hander was becoming part of few elite men to have played 100 Tests from England, but a rampant Indian team needed a strong challenge from English talisman before the aura and grandeur of India took over in the head of England, which is often the case for visitors. It's a battle of mind as much as skills and stamina. Root was at the heart of England’s momentous effort today. The visitors despite a solid opening stand found themselves in a vulnerable spot as they were 63 for 2 when Root arrived. On the very first ball, Ashwin sent Root a gentle reminder that this ain't Sri Lanka and the challenges will be greater and the bowling tighter as he induced a leading edge with his well disguised drift. The fast bowling challenge was also never going to be as easy as Bumrah kept him at his toes with his in-dippers. The Pacers were getting a hint of reverse swing. The first 50 balls had eclipsed and Root's sweeps had still not seen the light of the day. For Root, sweeps in Asia are akin to cover drives for Kohli. It is that feel good factor that helps him get into his zenith. But you just don't play 100 Tests and average close to 50 sans top-notch quality. Root's plan was simple. He was baiting India with the silence before the storm. All that he needed was the introduction of inexperienced Washington Sundar and Shahbaz Nadeem as he was going to feast on them all day long. This is Test cricket after all. The longer you survive, the greater the chances of inflicting greater damage. For Root, he had a lot more on his head. Stokes and Pope were to come minus much match practice. India's ability to induce collapse is as known as England creating a hole. Well, he was also part of the 2016 Chennai Test where he had seen England go down like a pack of cards in the final two sessions of the Test. And this India had no net or tired bowlers. They had only grown in confidence as the team was coming after a high of back-to-back series wins Down Under. But Root wasn't going to gift wrap his wicket to Sundar like Steven Smith. Instead, he launched a scathing attack on him. He was back to sweeping the spinners. The reverse-sweep was out. So was the disdainful slog sweep off Shahbaz Nadeem in the 48th over when he fetched the ball from wide outside the off-stump for a dismissive four. It was a clear-cut statement that Nadeem is no Lasith Embuldeniya and was going to be treated accordingly. The Yorkshireman’s confidence in sweeps were at all-time high as he was coming after hitting 53 and 52 sweeps in the last two Tests against Sri Lanka with his sweep averaging a mind-boggling 299 runs per dismissal, as per CricViz. To add to that, had Joe Root only scored runs with sweep shots in 2021, he would still be the 12th highest run-getter in Tests.The sweep shot in essence opens up the whole field. And this is the checkmate moment for Root. Who said only bowlers set baits and trap batsmen? Top-class batters do the same to bowlers. They make bowlers bowl in their areas of strength, which they can second guess beforehand. The Ashwin vs Root battle was always going to be fascinating despite the English no.4 having a better record against the offie having scored 251 runs and losing his wicket only three times with Root's SR of close to 60 coming into the Test. But Ashwin is a master of his craft, who's always reinventing himself and evolving with time. Given how he had worked over Smith, there were similar hopes in this Test. A major question was how would Ash deal with Root's sweep assault? Right, after the first time the Englishman swept him, it was set to be an alluring battle. Next two deliveries, Root defended the ball off the backfoot. Root is as nimble and decisive with his footwork. He can come forward and defend and also go back and block the ball as well. No wonder he’s a complex nut to crack for spinners.After that Ash delivered two loose half-trackers, which was Ashwin's way of staying one step ahead of Root as he was expecting the cross batted sweep. But it was not to as Root pulled and punched the premier Indian offie for back-to-back boundaries. After that, the battle was as good as dead. At the end of the day, Root had collected 26 off 38 against Ashwin at a SR of 68.42.After that he was creaming the ball past cover, kneeling down to sweep, slog sweeping, playing dabs, even switch-hitting, the late cuts, the flicks, the punches, it was a Joe Root exhibition. There wasn't even one area where the English skipper didn't score runs. The sweep remained his most productive shot as he collected 26 runs off it. He played arguably his best Test knock in his 100th Test to make it truly memorable. Root finished the day unbeaten on 128. He came, he saw, he conquered. The way he annihilated the Indian bowlers had inkling of the Kevin Pietersen's 2012 Wankhede epic as such was the way he forced the Indian bowlers into submission at their own backyard in one of their most loved venues to set up the tone for the series, which has certainly sent India the warning signal that this is England side ain't any pushover, especially as long as Joe Root is at the forefront of the side. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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Friday Fights | The Big ODI Fight – Andrew Flintoff vs Shaun Pollock 
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Two mavericks of the game, Andrew Flintoff and Shaun Pollock were the go-to-bowlers for their respective countries and on their day, could contribute in an efficient manner with the willow in hand as well. Today, these two resilient cricketers will lock horns in an epic boxing bout.Those who have seen the princely peak of Andrew 'Box-Office' Flintoff still can't stop but gush at his maverick ability to change games of cricket with his power packed performances.  6 ft 4 inches tall, ability to clock 90mph, reverse the ball at high pace, get the big fishes out, unleash powerful batting performances at the biggest of stages, Flintoff was a revered artist in the world of cricket. If Flintoff was an artist, Shaun Pollock was a machine. Hailing from a cricketing family with some big names, yet being able to turn out the best of all, pressure was something that he always created than succumbed to. One of the premier new ball bowlers during his heydays, he was a match-winner with his impeccable accuracy that he used to perfection to make batters dance to his tunes. Also, he was a very solid lower-order batsman, who could chip as and when the team required. Today, these two phenomenally gifted players will don the boxing gloves and take on each other in a head-to-head boxing battle to go one up on each other and emerge as the ultimate champion. Let's get started, folks:ROUND 1 -BATTING AVERAGE: Flintoff hits Pollock outta parkFlintoff is off to a flyer. Known as a quick starter, he gets on to the front foot, and creams his punch like a cricket ball to down Shaun Pollock in the opening round of the much anticipated battle. The English showman's batting average of 32.02 is too hot to handle for Shaun, who averages 26.46Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7ROUND 2 -BOWLING AVERAGE: So close yet to so far Shaken up by Flintoff's punch in R1, Pollock shows he’s a resilient man. This time, he takes the initiative and goes for a series of attacking punches on the Englishman. But, Freddie was no muck with the white cherry in hand, and with an average of 24.38, he takes all the punches in his stride before unleashing an aggressive hook to win the round over Pollock, who averages 24.51 with the ball in a close clash.Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9ROUND 3 -WICKETS PER INNINGS: Freddie, the PRO BOXER turns up One of the most critical aspects of boxing or cricket is how you use aggression to your advantage. And Flintoff, who has been a pro boxer himself, apart from being a cricketer, surely knows how to translate aggression into uppercuts. And this time, he doesn't even let Pollock to lay his finger on a bull like Freddie as with 1.42 wickets per innings, he's too big an impact bowler to even get challenged by Pollock's 1.32 wickets per innings. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 8 ROUND 4 -ECONOMY RATE: Sigh! Pollock is finally on board Much to the relief of the crowd present in the stadium, who have come to witness an enthralling battle, Pollock is finally off the hook. Flintoff, with an ER of 4.40, gets a tad too aggressive and as a result, in a bid to repeat his uppercut from the last round tries to replicate the same and gets imbalanced. All that Pollock with an economy of 3.68 needs to is to connect his punch accurately which he does with the ease of a master as such was his ability with the ball too. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10 ROUND 5 -BOWLING AVERAGE IN ICC TOURNAMENTS: This is Freddie's world Big ticket tournaments, pressure, box-office environment, the world is watching, and it's hardly a surprise that Flintoff turns up the heat and packs a punch. It's a no-contest as Pollock lives up to the 'C' tag and turns out to be an underperformer in the ICC tourneys. Flintoff's bowling average of 21.47 is far better than Pollock's 27.46 in big ticket ODI events. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 7 ROUND 6 -NO. OF BALLS BOWLED PER GAME: IT AIN'T OVER YETShaun Pollock has largely under performed in this fight thus far, but he makes a comeback with a thumping win this round. This turns out to be the last man standing sort of contest. Both the fighters go hard at one another. No one is ready to give up. But Pollock with 52.9 balls per game lasts longer as Freddie with 47.2 balls fails to keep fighting and loses the round. Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 7 -BOWLING AVERAGE AT HOME: Jeez, Pollock is up and running nowThat's the beauty of fights between two talented boxers. No matter how dire the situation becomes for any of them, they keep gutting it out till the last ounce they got. And that can be said for Pollock too who at one stage was trailing 1-4, as he registers back-to-back wins. Making full use of the momentum that he gained after R6 win, Pollock brings up a surprise move- THE RIB CAGER. With an average of 20.20 at home, he tears into the rib-cage of Flintoff, who loses the round with an average of 21.32.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 10ROUND 8 -BATTING AVERAGE AWAY: You can't keep a pro boxer out for longNow, this is where the experience of being a pro boxer once comes into play. Flintoff knows how to turn the tide, be it with the bat in hand or the boxing gloves. Pollock, buoyed by his last two round wins, with an average of 24.34, tries to hook Flintoff to the ground but the Englishman ducks and later with 27.11 overpowers him with a killer uppercut. Crowd goes berserk, what a move Freddie boy.Flintoff- 9 Pollock- 7ROUND 9 -BATTING STRIKE RATE: And the big man Flintoff knocks out PollockThis was always coming. Pollock, after a great R6 and R7 lost the last round, which meant he had to fire with all his guns blazing in R9 to fight for another day. But Freddie was always a great striker of the cricket ball with his hand-eye coordination and that is what he uses to perfection in boxing as well. With a strike-rate of 86.7, Pollock tries a half-hearted punch but Flintoff, with a strike-rate of 88.82, steals the thunder with a HOOK to down Pollock for once and all. Flintoff- 10 Pollock- 9WINNER BY KNOCKOUT - Andrew Flintoff FINAL SCORE: Flintoff 85-77 Pollock   Let us all admit that we did expect Andrew Flintoff to turn up the heat in this bout but could anyone anticipate the fight not even being a close one? I, for one, didn't as such were these big names and the stature and respect that these two command. But Flintoff was like a relentless machine and kept taking his game to the next level with every subsequent round. Pollock did try to find his feet later on but it was too little and too late. But one thing which we all learnt today is how good Andrew Flintoff is, as he emerged as the ultimate champion in this clash of titans. Follow us on Facebook hereStay connected with us on Twitter hereLike and share our Instagram page here .
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