‘The best player we’ve ever had’: Crawley’s praise for centurion Joe Root

<span>Joe Root gestures after bringing up his century in Ranchi.</span><span>Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP</span>
Joe Root gestures after bringing up his century in Ranchi.Photograph: Ajit Solanki/AP

RIP the Joe Root reverse ramp? Not so fast, insisted Zak Crawley, as the England dressing room basked in the afterglow of an unbeaten century from the team’s premier batter and one that could prove pivotal in this series with India.

Looking to level matters at 2-2 and set up a decider in Dharamsala, day one here had Root eschew the shot that drew much of the ire in Rajkot last week. Perhaps more important was less sweeping on a surface of variable bounce, the 32-year-old’s unbeaten 106 turning 112 for five at lunch into 302 for seven at stumps.

Related: Joe Root’s calm century leads England’s fightback against India

“If the pitch had been truer, I reckon [Root] would have still played those shots,” said Crawley, having delivered a contrasting 42-ball 42 from the top of the order. “In Dharamsala, if it’s a flatter wicket, I’d fully expect him to reverse ramp one. That’s just Joe; he’s very present when he bats and doesn’t overthink too much.

“It was a phenomenal knock. He’s probably the only bloke in our team who could have done that; he’s that good. He’s our best player and he’s stepped up when we needed him to. We needed him to get a score and he got a score like he’s done for so many years now. He’s the best player we’ve ever had.”

This praise from Crawley was not without statistical merit on the day, Root’s 91st Test score in excess of 50 surpassing Alastair Cook’s record for England. It was also his 10th Test century against India, overtaking Australia’s Steve Smith.

Crawley’s view of the much-discussed surface was that it was imperative to throw “counterpunches” while the ball was at its liveliest in the morning session. His 18-run over off Mohammed Siraj was an audacious example of this before England’s early aggression made way for watchfulness against the turning ball.

“I wouldn’t have batted like that the whole innings, it was just while it was doing so much,” said Crawley. “I felt there was a ball with my name on it. So we had to throw a couple of punches back, and myself and Jonny Bairstow (38) did that really well.

“Then it got easier, but it was still tricky against the spin for the middle-order. They read the situation and played unbelievably. It might be a new-ball wicket – hopefully it is when we bowl – but I think spin will only get harder.”

England have picked Tom Hartley and Shoaib Bashir in the belief that finger spin will be the most potent, with Rehan Ahmed missing out for tactical reasons. The wrist-spinner has left the tour and will not return for the finale, a family emergency forcing him to return to the UK.