Joe Root and Moeen Ali did not allow Indians to breathe easy at the field on Day 1 of 1st Test    AFP
Joe Root and Moeen Ali did not allow Indians to breathe easy at the field on Day 1 of 1st Test AFP

After all the hype, India and England began their five-Test series at Rajkot. While Rajkot got its first chance to host a Test match, England’s Test skipper had the first laugh by winning the toss and electing to bat on a batting friendly track. Alastair Cook came out to open the innings along with youngster and debutante, Haseeb Hameed. The pair could not add much to the scores but were bailed out from a tricky position courtesy a brilliant hundred by vice-captain, Joe Root and a steady innings from Moeen Ali. The day’s play left a lot of questions for the Indians with England racing to 311 for 4. They had their moments but could not capitalise as Aditya Sahay brings out some of the key phases of Day One: Live Cricket Scorecard: India vs England 1st Test at Rajkot

Sloppy fielding came back to haunt India in the first session: Winning the toss, Cook enjoyed the first success but his team had to still pile on the runs by batting sensibly. They were nervous at the start as there was minimal footwork from Cook and Hameed as they seemed in two minds. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami got the edges of Cook and Hameed but the slip fielders dropped every chance that came their way. The first of it was Ajinkya Rahane who dropped Cook in the first over at third slips and then he was given another reprieve by Kohli. Hameed also did not feel left out as Murali Vijay dropped a sitter off his blade to give him another chance. Where England could have easily been 2 for less than 20 on board, they sailed to 47 for no loss.

Hameed showed promise before perishing: There was much expected of Hameed when he came out to the crease. England have been struggling with finding a suitable partner for Cook since long and the 19-year-old was expected to fill in the big shoes from the word go. Hameed began with a few edges as he was settling in but hung in. After playing in for 5-6 overs, Hameed looked in a much better stead and appeared confident. He struck some lusty blows down the ground to the pacers and Ravichandran Ashwin to showcase his talent. He cut and drove and looked set for a half-century but was ultimately beaten by Ashwin’s mastery. He was adjudged lbw as he missed the length of the ball completely and it hit the stumps. He departed for 31 off 82 balls as India slowly started coming back into the match with quick wickets.

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Root-Moeen show: After resuming play in the second session, England were 102 for 3. India had, by then, dismissed Cook, Hameed and Ben Duckett to bring the game to equilibrium. England had to rebuild but had their Mr Dependable Root to their rescue. Root looked set from the beginning as he is a trusted campaigner against spinners. He timed the balls well against pacers and paced his innings beautifully without any rash shots. He, however, needed support from the other end and Moeen rose to the occasion. If Root was at ease, Moeen looked in control with calculative shots and coming down the track to negate spin. Moeen and Root ran hard between the wickets as Indian pacers bowled in negative lines after lunch.

There was no risky shots as the duo played shots in all parts of the ground and rotated strike to keep the scoreboard ticking. Seeing a bit of crack on the pitch, the two played carefully as they knew scoring huge is essential in the first innings to add to the miseries of the hosts who will bat fourth on Day Four wherein the track will become more difficult to bat on. In this process, they added 179 runs for the fourth wicket.

X-factor missing from hosts: There was not much spin on the track while the pacers were not rewarded early in the day with slip fielders dropping regular catches. However, being the No. 1 team, India were expected to find answers and do something destructive as the game progressed. To everyone’s surprise, nothing like that happened and the Indians have only themselves to blame. While the bowlers sparked the ball in all corners and were not disciplined, the fielders looked disinterested in the middle as they were slow in their movement. Kohli was also not at his usual best and did not do much to lift the spirits of his troops. The Indians did not do anything out-of-the-box to sneak in a wicket from somewhere and seemed content in being dominated by England.

Yadav’s early celebrations created confusion: India were struggling for long to scrap a breakthrough when Root and Moeen were at the crease. The two gave no half chances to the hosts and kept on punishing the bad balls. In the 81st over, Kohli gave the red leather to Yadav in a fatal hope of getting a wicket. Yadav’s fifth delivery was struck hard by a well-set centurion, Root, but to his dismay, he had hit the ball straight to Yadav who took a sharp low return catch. Yadav celebrated much earlier, showing how much Indians were agitated seeing Root score, by throwing the ball up in the air which confused the umpires if he had taken the catch or dropped it. However, having DRS in the series bore effective results as the decision went upstairs for review and showed the catch was taken cleanly, sending Root for 124.

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Moeen selflessly remains unbeaten at 99: When day Two will begin, England No. 5, Moeen, will be one run away from a well deserved hundred. After Root’s dismissal, Moeen did not let the momentum go away from hosts’ grasp as he played sensibly to see through the day with Ben Stokes at the other end. He was in no hurry of getting to his milestone and that was a talking point of his batting. He could have stepped up and taken on the tired Indian bowlers in the fag end of the day but chose to see the larger picture. England will get over 450 if Moeen gets a big hundred and sticks around for long on Day Two and analysing the situation, Moeen chose to wait another day for a deserving hundred.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)