Joe Root, Moeen Ali keep India at bay

Riding on Joe Root’s brilliance — the batsman scored 124 in nearly four hours — and a determined knock from Moeen Ali, who is just a run away from his fourth Test century, England sent out a clear message to India that it was up for the challenge on its home turf.

Joe Root scored a brilliant 124, his 11th overall and third against India.   -  AP

Joe Root and Moeen Ali, on Wednesday, threw down the gauntlet to the Indian spinners. Coming in at the fall of captain Alastair Cook’s wicket immediately after the first hour of the first Test, albeit following a questionable decision handed out by New Zealand umpire Chris Gaffaney, Root got down to the task of confronting off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja with equanimity and sensible stroke-play.

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The two spinners were already in the line of action after the 10th over was completed by fast bowler Umesh Yadav, who was chosen ahead of Baroda all-rounder Hardik Pandya. Riding on Root’s brilliance — the batsman scored 124 in nearly four hours — and a determined knock from Moeen Ali, who is just a run away from his fourth Test century, England sent out a clear message to India that it was up for the challenge on its home turf.

Root has been India’s bugbear almost right through his 12 previous appearances against it. And it was not a surprise to see him dominate the Indian bowlers with a touch of swagger that altogether halted the host’s advance in the post lunch session.

Without doubt, it was a commanding display of classical batsmanship from Root. He initially steered England out of trouble, and then built a 179-run partnership with Ali that, perhaps, broke the home team’s spirit. Root scored his 11th century in 49 Tests and his third against India.

> READ: Alastair Cook unlucky on DRS debut day

Teenaged debutant Haseeb Hameed fell to Ashwin’s ingenuity, while Ben Duckett was taken by an acrobatic Ajinkya Rahane at slip off the off-spinner. Jadeja won an appeal from umpire Gaffaney against Cook for India’s first breakthrough after Rahane, Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay failed to convert catches.

Rahane dropped the England captain when he was yet to score. Later, Kohli failed to hold on to a chance when Cook was on one. Hameed, on 13, was dropped by Vijay at slip. It all happened in the first half hour after Cook had won the toss to end Kohli’s run of seven consecutive wins with the coin.

The opening bursts by Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav did not give England much leeway barring when Hameed hit Shami over the slip cordon and slashed him in the third over.

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With three catches put down, India was quite desperate for a wicket. The Indian skipper made the first change in the 11th over when he brought on Ashwin, who took nine overs to scalp his first victim. The off-spinner bowled a delivery that hit the back leg of Hameed after beating the tall right-hander’s forward play. Hameed promptly asked for a review that only confirmed he was plumb in front. Then after being struck for three fours by Duckett, Ashwin had the left-hander, who edged to Rahane.

After lunch, Root took charge of the proceedings. He made the most of the fuller length deliveries from Ashwin by driving in front of the wicket. Root, too, had his share of luck when he nicked Yadav and the ball went through the gap between the wicketkeeper and the first slip.

> READ: Root makes India suffer

When Root was on 92, India asked for the DRS after umpire Kumar Dharmasena had turned down a leg before appeal off the bowling of Yadav. However, the TV umpire ruled in favour of Dharmasena’s decision as not more than half the ball appeared to hit the leg stump.

After a very focused innings, when he hung on for nearly four hours and faced 180 balls, Root hit firmly back into the hands of bowler Yadav. Yadav seemed to be in “control of the catch’’, having held the ball with both hands, but it was only after the on-field umpires referred the appeal to the third umpire that Root was given out.

The partnership between Root and Ali turned England’s fortunes around. Ben Stokes, who came in next, stepped down the ground to hit a big six off Ashwin.

Ashwin looked the part in his first 18-over spell, but given the fact that the pitch was playing true, he we went for some big runs in his subsequent spells.