Root & Moeen put England in charge against India

Joe Root

Joe Root made his 11th Test century and first in Asia

Joe Root hit a century and Moeen Ali an unbeaten 99 as England dominated the first day of the first Test against India in Rajkot.

Root made 124 and shared a stand of 179 with Moeen to take England to 311-4 on the first day of the five-Test series.

England were earlier 102-3 – debutant Haseeb Hameed making 31 – after winning the toss on a surface that showed little turn and some low bounce.

India, meanwhile, dropped three catches in the first half an hour of the day.

Taken in isolation, they were not too costly for the hosts, but they set the tone for a opening day that could have not gone much better for heavy underdogs England.

After failing to impress in the 1-1 drawn series in Bangladesh, this was a vastly improved batting display by the tourists, albeit after the top order was again knocked over relatively cheaply.

India have not lost a home Test match since England won 2-1 here in 2012 and while the world number ones had the disadvantage of losing the toss in conditions largely suited to batting, their bowling lacked incision and the fielding was poor.

Root and Moeen rebuild…

Still, there was a sense of familiarity as England, so often blighted by problems at the top of the batting line-up, lost three wickets for 55 runs before lunch.

Alastair Cook had been dropped twice and Hameed once, all off edges, before Cook was given lbw off left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, not reviewing when replays showed the ball was drifting down the leg side.

Hameed, at 19 only the second teenager to debut for England since 1949, looked organised and composed before being pinned lbw by off-spinner R Ashwin, who then had Ben Duckett caught at slip.

But, with England teetering, Root and Moeen combined to bat through the afternoon session, manoeuvring the ball in chanceless fashion and rotating the strike with well-judged running between the wickets.

…and then cash in

Root was busily accumulating as soon as he arrived at the crease, cover driving, sweeping and working singles on the leg side.

His 11th Test century and first in Asia was brought up with a delicate sweep off Ashwin and, though the celebrations were muted, he soon launched Jadeja back over his head for six.

Left-hander Moeen, eager to use his feet, regularly hit the spinners aerially though mid-on and flashed the pace bowlers square of the wicket on the off side.

Such was their dominance, it was a surprise when Root offered a return catch to Umesh Yadav, a dismissal tinged with controversy after Yadav was adjudged to have control despite fumbling and dropping as he threw it in celebration.

Still, Moeen remained in the company of Ben Stokes, but must wait for the one run that will give him a fourth Test century and first outside England.

England puncture India’s invincibility?

Since England’s victory four years ago, India have won 12 of their 13 home Tests, with the 13th only drawn because of heavy rain.

But here they were not only hampered by England’s excellent batting, but also their own shortcomings.

Ajinkya Rahane, captain Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay were all guilty of dropped catches, leg-spinner Amit Mishra served up a diet of full-tosses, and Ashwin, the world’s number one bowler, cut an increasingly frustrated figure on a day when he conceded more than 100 runs.

To cap India’s problems, opening bowler Mohammed Shami struggled with a hamstring problem.

On a tour when some predicted anything other than a 5-0 defeat would be a good result for England, it is they who have made the stronger start.

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