After three days of Australian dominance, Root took up the challenge of a record run chase with a fighting unbeaten half-century as the momentum began to shift towards England, roared on by their bellowing Barmy Army supporters.
In contrast, his counterpart Steve Smith, who attracted criticism for not enforcing the follow-on despite a 215-run first innings lead, burned two reviews in the space of three balls and put down a tough catch.
At the close of an absorbing fourth day in the first day-night Ashes Test, England were 176 for four with Root unconquered on 67 and nightwatchman Chris Woakes not out on five – 178 runs from victory with six wickets in hand heading into Wednesday’s final day.
The highest winning fourth innings at the Adelaide Oval is 315 for six by Australia against England in 1902.
“A win would be huge for us, both in terms of what it would do for our confidence as a team and we would be all square in the series,” England paceman James Anderson said.
“It would also have a potential effect on them (Australia) for a team to be in such a commanding position to then lose that,” he added.
“It’s very rare that a team declares and loses a game so if we can get a result tomorrow it would be huge for a number of reasons.”
Root had a leg before wicket decision on 32 off Nathan Lyon overturned on review, with the ‘Hawk-Eye’ tracker indicating the ball would have gone over the stumps.
Australia then lost their second and last review in the 43rd over when Dawid Malan survived an lbw challenge on three off Josh Hazlewood, with the ball again tracked as going over the stumps.
Adding to Smith’s anxiety, he also dropped Malan on eight in a sharp one-handed attempted catch at slip off Lyon.
“We’re still reasonably confident,” the Australia team bowling coach David Saker told reporters.
“Obviously, the last two days haven’t gone to plan … we’re still in front of the game but it’s getting closer and closer and Joe’s innings has made that possible,” he added.
“But if we can get his wicket in the morning I think the game changes quite quickly.”
After the chaos of the previous night’s session when Australia lost four wickets, England had a much better time under the lights. They only lost the wickets of James Vince and Malan and otherwise scored freely.
Vince was beaten by a pitched-up Mitchell Starc delivery, getting a big nick to Peter Handscomb at slip for 15. Malan put on 78 with Root before he was bowled by Pat Cummins for 29.
England lost openers Alastair Cook and Mark Stoneman before the dinner break.
Lyon won a successful lbw review to remove Cook (16), ending a 53-run opening stand with Stoneman, who was snapped up in the gully for 36.
The Australians were knocked over for 138 off 58 overs at tea but, bolstered by their 215-run innings lead, this left England with a record chase.
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker Anderson took five for 43 – his first five-wicket haul in Australia – while fellow paceman Woakes captured four for 36.
Usman Khawaja and Starc were joint top scorers with just 20 each in Australia’s modest second innings.
England kept the Australians under pressure after they resumed the day at 53 for four.
Day two of the Test saw a dramatic sight perhaps never seen before on the cricket field. Sri Lanka’s fielder took to wearing surgical masks in a bid to withstand Delhi’s worsening air quality in the face of excessive pollution and smog.
Sri Lanka pacer Suranga Lakmal stopped in his run-up as he started coughing and had to leave the field to receive medical attention. Three times play was stopped as the visitors complained of struggling with difficult conditions.
The Indians were clearly not happy with the disruptions and skipper Virat Kohli expressed his displeasure in clear terms by throwing away his bat in disgust. Head coach Ravi Shastri came charging onto the field to have a word with the umpires. The Delhi crowd meanwhile aimed their taunts at the islander as chants of ‘losers, losers’ echoed around the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
The general feeling among the Indian camp was that the Sri Lankans were playing up the situation to kill some valuable time in the Test.
The BCCI also made its stance clear on the subject when acting president CK Khanna made a statement to the media at the end of the day.
“If 20,000 people in the stands did not have a problem and the Indian team did not face any issue, I wonder why Sri Lankan team made a big fuss. I will need to talk to the secretary and ask him to write to the Sri Lanka Cricket,” he said.
Sri Lanka coach Nic Pothas had a completely different point of view though as he narrated the ordeal his players had to go through.
“They had got extremely high at one point, we had players coming in at one point and vomiting. There were oxygen cylinders in the dressing room,” said the coach.
“It is not normal for players to suffer in that way while playing the game. From our point of view it has to be stated that it is a very unique case. We had to play cricket. Under all circumstance, we wanted to play cricket. We just wanted to have some clarity on the safely of players,” he added.
There is a possibility that Dinesh Chandimal’s men might have overplayed the situation but there is simply no denying that the pollution levels in Delhi are at a hazardous level at the moment.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) spiked to 368 on Monday morning with the met department warning that it is expected to cross 400 in the coming days. For the record, the AQI at the same time at Adelaide where the second Ashes Test is currently underway hovered between two to six.
What’s currently happening in Delhi is unprecedented in the history of the sport. Games have been delayed or interrupted due to bad lights and inclement weather but never before has one heard about a match being stopped due to pollution.
It is one for the BCCI as well as the ICC to moot. For the BCCI, the question is why Delhi was awarded a game in the first place in peak winter when smog levels are at their highest and air quality at its lowest.
For the ICC, it will be wise to chart a course of actions for such incidents in the future and set some guidelines with regards to air quality levels in future matches. With no precedent in the past, the match referee at Delhi was put in a tight spot with both sets of team conflicted on the matter.
The health and safety of the players, officials, staff and fans should be paramount and while what happened on Sunday was not something we like to see on a cricket field, it is definitely one the ICC and the BCCI cannot ignore.
Pacer Jasprit Bumrah was handed his maiden Test call-up as the Indian selectors announced the 17-man squad for the tour of South Africa commencing at the end of the year.
There was also a recall for wicket-keeper Parthiv Patel as India opted to take a deputy for mainstay Wriddhiman Saha.
Bumrah has become a vital cog in India’s limited-overs setup over the past year and he beat competition from the likes of Shardul Thakur and Vijay Shankar to take the fifth pacer’s slot in the 17-man squad.
Patel had meanwhile played his last Test for India against England in December 2016 when he was filling in for the injured Saha.
India are set to play three Tests, six ODIs and three T20Is in their more than two-month long tour of the African country.
#TeamIndia for three- match Test series against South Africa announced
Virat (Capt), Vijay, Rahul, Shikhar, Pujara, Rahane (vc), Rohit, Saha (wk), Ashwin, Jadeja, Parthiv, Hardik, Bhuvneshwar, Shami, Ishant, Umesh, Bumrah. #SAvIND
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 4, 2017
The squads for the limited-overs matches will be announced at a much later date.
The BCCI also announced the squad for the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka with Rohit Sharma once again chosen to lead the side as Virat Kohli gets a well deserved rest.
#TeamIndia for Paytm T20Is against Sri Lanka announced
Rohit (Capt), Rahul, Shreyas, Manish, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik, W Sundar, Yuzvendra, Kuldeep, Deepak Hooda, Bumrah, M Siraj, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat. #INDvSL
— BCCI (@BCCI) December 4, 2017
There were quite a few fresh faces selected for the T20I series as Kerala pacer Basil Thampi along with all-rounders Deepak Hooda and Washington Sundar receiving their maiden call-up to the national side.
There was also place in the side for left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat who last played a T20I for India in June 2016 against Zimbabwe.
INDIA SQUAD FOR TEST SERIES AGAINST SOUTH AFRICA
Virat Kohli (C), KL Rahul, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (Vc), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin,Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel, Ravindra Jadeje, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah.
INDIA SQUAD FOR T20I SERIES AGAINST SRI LANKA
Rohit Sharma (C), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Dinesh Karthik, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Jasprit Bumrah, Basil Thampi, Jaydev Unadkat.