Joe Root provided the template for England’s batsmen in India – and then for good measure threw in some close-of-play spin.
Root’s 124 underpinned England’s heartening 311 for four on day one of the five-Test series, chiefly in a stand of 179 with Moeen Ali, who finished unbeaten on 99.
England therefore recovered from a pre-lunch wobble against India’s much-discussed spin attack which left them on a briefly vulnerable 102 for three in Rajkot.
Root was a paragon throughout of how to maximise an opportunity in these conditions, with decisive footwork and a proactive method against the world’s No 1 bowler Ravi Ashwin and others.
He had just one close call, a DRS lbw survival on 92 against Umesh Yadav, departing finally in mildly controversial circumstances when the same bowler pulled off a low return catch and the dismissal was confirmed after recourse to the third umpire to rule whether the juggling seamer had held the ball long enough before it fell to ground amid his fumbling celebrations.
Root regretted that shot, of course, but little else after he and Moeen had ensured England move on at the first attempt from the collapse which cost them their last Test when all ten wickets fell inside a session against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
Root is relishing the prospect of consolidation after such an encouraging start.
“It was a great day’s cricket for us,” he said. “We hope Mo and Stokesy [Ben Stokes] can go on and put on a big partnership and take us into a really good position going into the second innings.
“The way Mo and I played – without blowing my own trumpet – was really good, and something that will give us all a lot of confidence. “
Asked how many runs England need in their first innings, Root forecast that 500 would be a “fantastic effort” – before converting the question into his chance to sow a few more doubts for India.
“It will be more about how long we can bat on this wicket.
“The more overs on it, I’m sure it will deteriorate quite quickly. By the end of day two, three and into day four, the game will speed up drastically in my opinion.
“I might be completely wrong. But having spent some time out there and seen the cracks on the wicket – and already the variable bounce it’s shown – it might go into fast-forward come day three onwards.”
Ashwin’s figures, of two for 108, were collateral damage – rather than a specific attempt to dent the confidence of one of the hosts’ biggest threats.
“It wasn’t a specific approach,” said Root.
“As soon as anyone lets go of the ball, you’ve just got to play what’s coming down at you ... just keep it as simple as that. You can look into people’s records, but that can change very quickly in this sport.
“You’ve got to make sure you respect these guys who have been successful for long periods of time, and even for the previous series – but when it comes down to it, you can only play what’s in front of you.”
As for his dismissal, Root did not actually see the moment Yadav took the catch – having turned away in frustration at his own fallibility.
“I was so disgusted with the shot that – giving it the Arsene Wenger approach – I didn’t really see what was happening.
“But having seen the slo-mo replay, it does look out.
“When it’s speeded up it looks a bit strange, but I was very lucky to get an umpire’s call with an lbw earlier on – and you have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes and just get on with it.”
India must be feeling the same sentiment applies to them after the opening exchanges.
Unsurprisingly, though, their assistant coach Sanjay Bangar does not share Root’s prediction of what may happen next.
He said: “Rajkot is known to be a batsman’s paradise, and they applied themselves well and made full use of the conditions on offer.
“But the game changes very quickly – and with a couple of quick wickets, we could make early inroads. This is just day one.”