Moeen and Root win the day for England

Chopra: Cook’s plan of playing outside off not working
 Moeen Ali’s fifth Test century steered England past a shaky start and moved them to a solid 284 for 4 at the end of day one in Chennai. Moeen added 146 for the third wicket with Joe Root to rescue England after they had slumped to 21 for 2, and then put on 86 with Jonny Bairstow to strengthen their position, before the wicket of Bairstow brought India their only success of the final session. On a pitch that offered plenty of turn but only slow turn, Ravindra Jadeja’s extra pace brought him three wickets while the other two spinners went wicketless.

The wicket of Root half an hour before tea seemed to give India a bit of an opening, but Bairstow and Moeen disabused them of any such notion, counter-attacking at the start of the final session. Bairstow led the way, slog-sweeping the spinners at every opportunity, hitting Jadeja and Ashwin for sixes in successive overs, and looked in sizzling form before Jadeja did him in one short of a half-century, pulling his pace back cleverly to invite an uppish drive to short-extra cover.

The dismissal came in the 81st over, and India waited until the 86th to take the second new ball. By that time, Moeen had moved to his hundred. He went from 95 to 99 with the shot of his innings, skipping down the track to hit Amit Mishra inside-out, against the turn, through the covers, and reached the landmark next ball with a nudged single into the off side. He continued playing his shots against the new ball, driving Ishant Sharma for successive fours on the up, both in the air, once to the right of point, once to the right of cover.

Those two shots were emblematic of Moeen’s innings, which contained periods of unease and vulnerability, notably at the start, but also some gorgeous strokeplay, particularly through the off side.

He began scratchily, and looked particularly insecure before lunch, when Ashwin beat his outside edge repeatedly, scrambling his footwork with his changes of pace, trajectory and angle. Before he got off the mark, he enjoyed a life when he flicked Jadeja uppishly and through the hands of KL Rahul, who mistimed his jump at midwicket. He survived a couple of reviews as well, when Jadeja and Mishra beat his inside edge and hit him on the front pad. The on-field umpire gave him out both times: first, when he was on 20, replays showed the ball hitting his pad outside the line of off stump; on the second occasion, when he was on 83, the ball was shown to strike him in line but ball-tracking returned an umpire’s call verdict.

On 7 off 44 balls at lunch, Moeen grew in confidence after the break, using the sweep to hit fours off Ashwin and Jadeja and going after Amit Mishra when he returned for his second spell, unafraid to use his feet and hit him against the turn.

Mishra, who came back into the side because Jayant Yadav was out with a hamstring niggle, only bowled 13 overs – Jadeja bowled 28 and Ashwin 24 – and went for 52, too often straying from a good length. The slowness of the surface, moreover, accentuated Mishra’s lack of zip off the pitch, as a result of which his good balls didn’t trouble England unduly either.

Root fell half an hour from tea, trying to sweep Jadeja and getting a thin inside edge – revealed by Ultra Edge, after India reviewed the on-field not-out decision – through to the wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel. That shot apart, the sweep was a productive stroke for Root, who made his 11th 50-plus score in 11 Tests against India.

He was judicious in choosing the right line to sweep, avoiding it against stump-to-stump deliveries, but showed a dazzling ability to play the shot against a wide range of lengths. He paddled a near half-volley from R Ashwin from outside off stump towards fine leg, and held his shape, without getting down fully on his back knee, to stay on top of the bounce and flat-bat a back-of-a-length ball from Jadeja through midwicket. In all, the sweep and the slog-sweep fetched him 29 runs off 13 balls, including five fours.

There were a couple of other excellent shots too, including a deft dab to the third man boundary off an Umesh Yadav yorker and a skip down the pitch to hit Ashwin over the top when he brought mid-on up. Not for the first time in the series, he batted with a calm fluency in conditions where his team-mates looked uncertain.

Jadeja apart, India’s only successful bowler was Ishant Sharma, who, returning to the side for his first Test of the series, bowled accurately, brought the batsmen forward more frequently than he usually does, and gave India their first breakthrough in the sixth over of the morning. Both he and Umesh had kept Keaton Jennings quiet, giving him nothing to drive, before Ishant slipped in the sucker ball – wide outside off, full, but not quite a half-volley. Jennings, on 1 off 16 balls, drove without getting his head over the ball, and nicked to the keeper.

Virat Kohli brought Jadeja on as early as the ninth over, and he produced a loud lbw shout with his first ball to Alastair Cook. Kohli took too long to decide to review Marais Erasmus’ not-out decision, which was just as well, because ball-tracking suggested the ball would have missed leg stump. That ball – and the three times he had been lbw to Jadeja in this series – probably played a part in Cook’s dismissal in the left-arm spinner’s third over. This time, Jadeja floated it up outside off stump, a little slower than usual. Cook poked uncertainly, the ball turned less than he expected, and Kohli took a sharp, low catch at slip. With that, Jadeja had dismissed Cook for the fifth time in the series.


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