RAJKOT. — Joe Root said England played fantastic cricket yesterday after his sparkling century helped the tourists reach 311 for four at stumps on the opening day of the first Test against India.The 25-year-old put on 179 with Moeen Ali, who reached the close one run shy of his century, after India’s spinners had reduced the tourists to 102-3 on a placid track. Ali, who is on the verge of his fourth Test century, was at the crease with Ben Stokes who was on 19 at Rajkot’s Saurashtra Cricket Association ground.

Root smashed 11 fours and a six during his 124-run knock before being caught and bowled by Umesh Yadav, who almost dropped the chance as he rushed to celebrate the dismissal.

With Ali standing tall at one end, England looked set for a big first innings total, vindicating captain Alastair Cook’s decision to bat first.

Root celebrated his 11th Test ton, and third against India, by waving his bat towards a grateful England dressing room. In completing the feat, Root became the first overseas player to score a century in India since Australia’s Michael Clarke in 2013.

“The way we played throughout the day was fantastic,” Root said after the day’s play.

“We always thought that seam bowling would be useful early on, but the guys handled it well and that allowed the boys in the middle order to build partnerships. I look forward to watching Moeen bat all day tomorrow too. It’s pleasing, something to build on and a good position to be in.” Ali put in a focused performance, negotiating 192 balls during his 243-minute stay at the crease.

The Root-Ali pair piled on the misery for India who were also set back by an injury to pace spearhead Mohammed Shami. Earlier, a gripping opening session saw opener Haseeb Hameed (19) become the fifth youngest player to play for England.

The youngster, dubbed “Baby Boycott” for his unflappable style, made 31 during his 98 minutes at the crease before falling lbw to top-ranked spinner Ravichandran Ashwin (2-108).

Ashwin also dismissed Ben Duckett for 13 but went wicketless in the last two sessions. Hameed and Cook (21) both benefited from the largesse of India’s fielders who dropped some early chances.

Cook was dropped off Shami on the third ball of the innings, while Hameed got a reprieve on 13 when Murali Vijay grassed his catch at first slip.

The England skipper, who surpassed Michael Atherton’s record of 54 Tests as England captain, was adjudged leg before off left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja.

TV replays showed the ball would have missed the leg stump but Cook did not refer to the third umpire even though the decision review system is being used for the first time by India in a home series.

Hameed showed little sign of nerves against top-ranked India, hitting Shami for boundaries twice in an over and driving Ashwin for an elegant four in the covers. India’s batting coach Sanjay Bangar conceded the sloppy fielding had cost his side dearly.

“They (England batsmen) applied themselves really well and made full use of the conditions on offer,” he said.

“It’s still day one and had we taken those catches, we could have taken six wickets and conceded 25-30 less runs.” — AFP.

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