Joe Root and Moeen Ali give England strong start in first Test

November 9, 2016

England began their five-match Test series in India with an excellent day of batting, with Joe Root making a century and Moeen Ali ending the day 99 not out.

The tourists finished the opening day on 311-4, a score that belied pre-series predictions that they would be spun into oblivion on pitches that turned from the first day. Indeed, New Zealand failed to pass 300 in any of their recent three Tests in India, while South Africa's trip last autumn saw them seldom even reach 200. Root's century was the first by a visiting batsman in India in 12 Tests. 

After England's visit to Bangladesh saw them only narrowly win the first Test and lose the second, many pundits had warned that England could face a 5-0 whitewash against the world's top side on more turning pitches, with England's much-criticised slow bowlers being contrasted with an Indian bowling unit led by off-spinner Ravi Ashwin, currently the world's number one ranked Test bowler. 

So far, however, the threat has been blunted and if England can make the most of favourable batting conditions on day two, they could at least compile a score to make them reasonably safe from the threat of defeat.

Having won the toss in Rajkot, England started well as Alastair Cook and 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed - only England's third teenage debutant since the second world war - put on 47 for the first wicket, before Cook was out lbw to Ravindra Jadeja for 21. Had he chosen to review, he would have been reprieved as the ball was slipping down leg side.

Hameed played a composed innings of 31 before he was leg-before to Ashwin, who then removed Ben Duckett for 13 to leave England at a precarious 102.

However, that was when Joe Root was joined by Moeen Ali, and the pair batted superbly through the afternoon session to add 107 runs without further loss. After tea, Root went on to his 11th Test century before falling in controversial circumstances to the second new ball for 124. He chipped a return catch to Umesh Yadav, who fumbled and spilled the ball as he tried to throw it up in celebration. The third umpire ruled he had managed to hold it cleanly before dropping it. 

That ended a stand of 179, but with Moeen and Ben Stokes (19 not out) seeing England through to the close, there is plenty of power to add. If he gets one more run, it will be Moeen's fourth test century and third this year.

Indeed, fans booking corporate hospitality for next summer's Test match between England and South Africa at the Kia Oval may include many who were at the venue this year to witness Moeen's century against Pakistan, an innings that may have contributed to the decision to promote him up the order from his usual position of seven or eight to number five. 

So far, all the Birmingham-born all-rounder's Test hundreds have come against Asian teams, with his maiden Test century at Headingley in 2014 and his top Test score of 155 at Chester-le-Street this year both coming against Sri Lanka. 

India's difficulties in the field were worsened by the sight of Mohammed Shami struggling with an apparent hamstring injury, which may continue to hamper his bowling on the second day.

By Sam Coates

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