|| AFP ||
Dawid Malan hailed Joe Root as a "phenomenal" batsman after the England captain delighted his Yorkshire home crowd with yet another superb hundred against India on Thursday.
Root's 121 at Headingley was his sixth Test century of 2021 and equalled the England record for the most hundreds in a calendar year shared by Denis Compton (1947) and Michael Vaughan (2002).
He has now scored 1,398 runs in 11 Tests at an average of 69.90 since the start of the year, with the 30-year-old Root enjoying a run of form that puts him in elite company.
Thursday's innings was also Root's third hundred in as many Tests against India this series.
But while his 109 at Trent Bridge came during a rain-marred draw and not even his commanding 180 not out at Lord's could prevent a 151-run defeat that saw India go 1-0 up in the five-match contest, his latest century appears to have put England on course for a victory, barring a freak turn of events.
England ended the second day of the third Test on 423-8, a huge first-innings lead of 345 runs after they dismissed India for a mere 78 on Wednesday.
- 'Best seat in the house' -
Malan, who made an impressive 70 in his first Test in three years and shared a stand of 139 with Root, was in no doubt of the England skipper's quality.
"He is phenomenal isn't he? He just scores runs all the time," Malan told reporters. "You look at all the best players that have played - all the greats, if you want to put it that way -- and as soon as you miss your line and your length, they hurt you. Joe is one of those."
He added: "It's great to watch and it's great to have the best seat in the house when he does play as well as that. He just moves his feet so well and his position when he hits the ball is so good...he hits the ball so much later than most people."
Malan, recalled at number three after England promoted Haseeb Hameed to open in place of the dropped Dom Sibley, is the world's top-ranked Twenty20 batsman.
But his Test career was put on hold for three years after then national selector Ed Smith questioned whether Malan's game could thrive in English conditions as it had done abroad.
- IPL dilemma -
Thursday's innings has left Malan well-placed to revive his Test fortunes, although he was taking nothing for granted in an era where Covid-19 has led to compressed schedules.
Any England player selected for both the upcoming Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE, as well as the subsequent Ashes tour of Australia, could spend several months from October to mid-January in potentially restrictive bubble set-ups.
Malan, who has already signed up for the resumption of the lucrative T20 Indian Premier League with the Punjab Kings, was cautious when asked about his ongoing England availability across all formats.
"The only guarantee we have at the moment is IPL -- we don't know if we're going to the World Cup and we don't know if we're going to the Ashes, so it leaves us in quite a tough situation," he said.
"Say you give up the IPL and you don't get picked for either of the England squads, then you've given up the IPL," the 33-year-old left-hander added.
"Or if you go to the IPL and then you get selected after you've gone to the IPL then you're sat in the bubble for five-and-a-half months. Hopefully we can get some answers and we can find some time to get a rest out of these bubbles."