England was 311-4 against India after big innings by Joe Root and Moeen Ali on an impressive first day of the five-test series by the visitors on Wednesday.
Root scored 124 and Ali was 99 not out in an innings, which also featured 19-year-old Haseeb Hameed, the youngest opener to debut for England.
Root made less than 100 in four innings in Bangladesh, but was far more composed in Rajkot, where he reached his 11th test hundred, and third against India, off 257 balls.
He struck 11 fours and a six in the first century on Indian soil by a visitor since February 2013, when Australia’s Michael Clarke scored 130 in Chennai.
“It was very satisfying to get the hundred,” Root said after his first century on the subcontinent. “I felt I was getting good starts, but I was also getting into a habit of getting out between 50 and hundred.
“There was a lot of talk going into this series to make big runs, so it was nice to get some. Ali and Hameed batted really well, too, and it should give all of us good confidence going ahead.”
Ali’s ninth test half-century, and first against India, came off 99 balls. Overall, he faced 192 balls to finish the day on the cusp of his fourth hundred.
He and Root put on 179 for the fourth wicket, as England posted the first 300-plus score against India in India in the last 11 tests.
“We needed to take advantage of what was a pretty good pitch today,” Root said.
“We will look to get close to 500 and eat up time. There are some cracks on the pitch, so it will have variable bounce and will turn as we go on.”
Fast bowler Mohammed Shami went off three overs before tea to treat cramps, and came back after tea but nearly broke down again. He didn’t go off, though, and had figures of 12.1-2-31-0.
India resisted taking the second new ball, and it paid off. Umesh Yadav got a lucky break as he accepted a return catch from Root in the 81st over. However, Yadav was not in complete control as he fumbled his celebration. But TV umpire Rod Tucker deemed Root out. Yadav took 1-67.
“I was disgusted with my loose shot, so didn’t see what happened,” Root said. “Later, I checked the replays, and in slow motion it looked out. But when you quicken it up, it looked strange. I got lucky with a DRS referral earlier, so we have to take this in our stride.”
Ben Stokes joined Ali, and they added 30 runs to stumps, leading England to 300 in the 90th over. Stokes was 19 not out.
Alastair Cook won the toss and rode his luck in a bright start, before England was reduced to 55-3 in the first session.
Cook and Hameed both survived dropped catches, adding undue pressure on the India bowlers, as both openers spent considerable time at the crease. The middle order then made merry with the spinners not getting as much purchase on a first-day pitch.
“You need to make the first session count to send the right message across.
Unfortunately, we dropped a couple of catches, which set us back,” India assistant coach Sanjay Bangar said.
Cook ran out of luck when he was trapped lbw on 21 by Ravindra Jadeja. Hameed hit six boundaries on his way to 31 before Ravichandran Ashwin trapped him lbw.
Ashwin captured his second wicket on the last delivery before lunch when Ben Duckett departed for 13, caught by a diving Ajinkya Rahane at slip.
Root and Ali batted through the second session to guide England to 209-3 at tea, adding 107 from 31 overs.
Ali had an early reprieve when his prod off Ashwin fell just short of the short leg fielder.
But that was the only opportunity the pair offered, raising its 50-partnership off 87 balls and the 100 stand from 172 deliveries.