England are “sitting really pretty” after Joe Root and Moeen Ali led them to 311-4 on day one of the first Test against India, says Geoffrey Boycott.
Joe Root scored 124 and put on 179 with Moeen, whose 99 not out Boycott described as “one of his best innings”.
“This was a lovely innings – controlled drives with lovely flow and ease of the bat,” the former England opener told Test Match Special.
“Moeen and Joe Root in the afternoon session took the game away from India.”
The second new ball is available for India when play resumes on Friday at 04:00 GMT with Moeen on strike, one run short of his fourth Test hundred and first overseas.
Boycott added of Moeen’s innings: “I thought he played splendidly. I know sometimes he plays airy-fairy and he gets out – but you could say that about the wonderful, great player David Gower occasionally, but a lot of other times he played fantastically.”
As for fellow Yorkshireman Root, Boycott said “it was just a very good Joe Root innings – what you have come to expect from one of the world’s best players”.
Boycott believes the tourists, who won the toss, should be aiming to score at least 450 in their first innings.
“You’ve got to aim for 550 but 450 is the minimum so don’t cock up now – let’s have no collapses tomorrow. India are not world-beating. Put the score on the board, a big score, and let’s see how they do under scoreboard pressure.”
‘We have learned how to start an innings against spin’
Root, who brought up his 11th Test century and first in Asia, says there is still “a lot of hard work to do tomorrow morning” as England look to build a big total.
“It’s a good start to the game but it’d be silly and naive to look too far into it,” he told Test Match Special.
“It’s nice to see Moeen set and Ben Stokes looked very comfortable towards the back end of the evening. If they can get a good partnership together and put some pressure on them, we could be in a really good position come the end of this innings.”
The England vice-captain said the testing pitches in the drawn series against Bangladesh last month had helped prepare the players for facing the world number one Test side.
“From those extreme conditions you learn how to start an innings against spin. We’ve worked really hard since we’ve been here about doing that and I thought that has paid off slightly,” Root said.
He believes there is enough in the pitch already to give England hope of causing India’s batsmen problems later in the game.
Root continued: “There are quite a lot of cracks and you saw reverse swing come into it quite early on. That will give the seamers a boost. There was a bit of variable bounce and if that can continue to develop over the next couple of days and we get a lot of runs first innings, we could be in a good position.”
A catch or not?
Root had no complaints about his eventual dismissal via a return catch to Umesh Yadav, who lost control of the ball as he attempted to throw it up in celebration.
Third umpire Rod Tucker adjudged the catch had been taken despite Yadav appearing to panic as the ball slipped from his grasp.
“I didn’t see too much about it because I was so disgusted with the shot, I turned my back on it as the ball went in. I looked back up and he was scrambling around for it,” Root said.
“Having seen the slo-mo, it looks like he had control of it. When you speed it up, it’s a bit up in the air. I was lucky to get away with an umpire’s call on lbw – sometimes these things go for you, sometimes they go against you. You have to take it on the chin and move on.”
BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew felt the correct decision had been made, explaining: “You go to the law book and see that up to 2000 you had to have full control of the ball and its further disposal but that law is gone.
“There is no mention of the word ‘control’ in the laws any more so as long as you catch the ball, that’s it. It didn’t look good at full speed but in slow motion you see that he has the ball in his hands and he then makes to throw it in the air. These days that’s good enough.”
Teenager Hameed looked a natural – Agnew
Agnew was impressed by 19-year-old Test debutant Haseeb Hameed, who looked composed in making 31 before he was out lbw to off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
“Hameed looked a natural, and a natural opening batsmen. He showed a lot of maturity and wasn’t rushed at all – he made the bowlers wait until he was ready,” Agnew told BBC Sport.
“He gets very much on the front foot, he gets from front foot to back foot very quickly and he played the short ball well.
“His family is here and it’s a huge event for him at the age of 19 but I thought he played very, very well. There is a lot of talent there and let’s hope it matures fully.”
Boycott also expressed his approval, saying: “I thought he played nicely but I don’t think we should expect too much from him – he’s 19.
“Where was I playing then? Some club cricket or Yorkshire second team. This kid is playing a Test match in India. But what I saw, the nice shots, the footwork, the defence – I agree with the selectors. There looks to be something there worth taking a chance on. He looks a proper opener.”
But questions for Duckett
Agnew has concerns over Ben Duckett’s technique after the Northamptonshire left-hander was caught at skip off Ashwin for 13 in the final over before lunch, which left England 102-3.
Duckett opened alongside captain Alastair Cook in Bangladesh, where he averaged 23 in four innings, but has moved to number four here.
“Ben Duckett does tend to get leg side of the ball, which means he is going to be caught in the slip area,” Agnew said.
“He’s going to have to look at covering his stumps a little bit more but this is the way that he plays and it’s got him in the England side, and he has a fifty to his name from the second Test against Bangladesh.
“He is batting in a better position than opening – I’ll be surprised if he regularly opens in Test cricket. But he has got to realise that in Test cricket the margins of error are miniscule.”