Joe Root and Moeen Ali steady the ship for England in India
Stand of 179 leaves Alastair Cook's team in a commanding position after day one of the first Test in Rajkot
England's cricketers defied expectations and a top order wobble after making a strong start to the first Test against India at Rajkot.
Joe Root scored a fine 124 and Moeen Ali ended the day on 99 not out as the tourists amassed 311 for four on the first day after winning the toss. They elected to bat on a surprisingly green pitch that was far removed from the dusty surfaces England had struggled on in Bangladesh.
Root and Ali put on 179 for the fourth wicket to leave England in control after they had slipped to 102 for three at lunch, despite a solid first innings in Test cricket from 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed, who scored a composed 31 before he was trapped LBW by Ravi Ashwin.
Although England were "teetering" at lunch, batting was the obvious choice on a "surface that showed little turn and some low bounce", says Stephan Shemilt of the BBC.
It could have been much worse for England after India 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 an opening day that could have not gone much better for heavy underdogs England," says Shemilt.
Cook was the first to fall, adjudged LBW for 21. Haseeb followed 29 runs later and Ben Duckett was out on the stroke of lunch. That brought Moeen and Root together with a rebuilding operation on their hands.
It was a case of the "new old guard" showing England the way, says Vic Marks of The Guardian.
Cook and Stuart Broad both have 100 caps, but after those two England now "look to Root and Moeen to guide them towards tranquil waters", he says. "They sit on the front row of the team photograph; they are now the experienced ones, who are supposed to exude calmness to the novices. And here they did, ensuring England were able to capitalise on Cook's good fortune in winning the toss."
Root's hundred was "the first century by a batsman visiting India since Michael Clarke in February 2013", notes Sidharth Monga of Cricinfo, while Moeen "ended the day one short of another".
But Monga agrees that the importance of winning the toss "cannot be overstated". He says it was the first time in eight home Tests that India had lost the toss under Virat Kohli's captaincy, and India had won six of those seven previous games.
But England still did well to make it count. "Even allowing for the pitch being vastly easier than anything England had encountered in Bangladesh, England's first innings was praiseworthy in light of the fact that only Alastair Cook, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow had played a Test in India before – and for the two Yorkshiremen it was a single one," says Scyld Berry of the Daily Telegraph. "Yet Root and Moeen Ali shared a fourth-wicket stand of 179 that won this opening round in style."