The new, improved Moeen Ali has a simple formula for making Test hundreds – and it is working.
Moeen admits he needed all his rediscovered sense of responsibility to try to make sure England stayed on track for the big first-innings total they needed, when he walked out with Joe Root at 102 for three after lunch on day one.
Five sessions later, he was able to reflect on his third Test century in the past six months – as well as one each, too, from Root and Ben Stokes – in England’s 537 all out.
After India had replied with 63 for none at stumps, the most pertinent question is perhaps how England are going to be able to extract enough from the Rajkot pitch to bowl their hosts out twice in this first Test of five.
That onus too will fall in no small part on Moeen and Stokes, among others. Both can be satisfied already, however, that they have done the first part of their job as well as could be expected – and Moeen believes he has rediscovered the key to his batting.
His two previous centuries this year came from No 7, against Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street and Pakistan at The Oval, but he feels more at home back up at five.
“I think it’s a change of mentality,” he said. “I used to go out before and almost give my wicket away sometimes. “But the last few months, I’ve really taken the responsibility.
“Since I’ve come to number five, I feel like I can go back to that now. My aim is to bat 200 balls, and if I do that I’ll score a hundred. That’s what I tell myself anyway…”
Moeen’s 117 was one of the central pillars of England’s total alongside Root’s 124 and finally Stokes’ 128. He needed just one more single on the second morning to complete his century, and did so in the first over, having experienced no sleepless hours overnight.
“It was the total opposite,” he said. “I slept really well. I knew I had to get one more run, but I was fine.”
England’s wobble the previous day had helped focus Moeen’s mind initially.
“I enjoy those kind of situations – when we’re struggling a little bit,” he said.
“I’ve done that plenty of times at Worcester. It’s something I really enjoy, and I think it brings out the best in me.
“Obviously it doesn’t always come off, but it gets me into the zone.”
Stokes followed Moeen and Root’s lead as England hit three hundreds in the same Test innings for the first time since May 2011 against Sri Lanka in Cardiff.
It was another example of Stokes’ huge potential, and Moeen said: “I think we’re going to see so much from him – with different innings he can play.
“We’ve seen [his attacking brilliance at] Cape Town, but we’ve seen smart innings as well, and I think today’s was.
“He chanced his arm a little bit. But when you play with that freedom and fearless approach, you can get away with it a bit more – and he is becoming a fantastic all-rounder.”
As for England’s prospects of putting India under more pressure with the ball, Moeen senses there will be increasing, but perhaps not dramatic, help from the surface.
“It’s going to get a little bit lower, and I think a bit more spin – as you saw tonight,” he said. “It’s a very good pitch, but I think the bounce is going to be the problem.
“Not every ball is spinning, and that makes the bowler a bit more dangerous.”
His opposite number Ravindra Jadeja was India’s most successful bowler, with three for 86, and was not surprised to see England bat much more successfully than they had in their previous Test innings - when they collapsed to defeat against Bangladesh in Dhaka less than two weeks ago.
“The main thing is the surface was pretty different here,” he said.
“There, the ball was turning sharply. Here, just the odd ball was turning.”
England’s hope must be that any possible deterioration in conditions takes hold as soon as possible.