Chennai: Displaying immense patience, Moeen Ali crafted a serene hundred, his second of the series, to lift England out of gloom after the visitors fluffed the start on day one of the fifth and final Test here at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Thursday. England who were in a spot of bother at 21/2 ended the day with their heads held high with a score of 284/4 in 90 overs.
Despite a reprieve early in his innings — K.L. Rahul mistimed his jump at mid-on to drop him at zero — Ali shone with his dogged resilience and grew in confidence to script an unbeaten knock of 120 in 222 balls. Joe Root produced a contrasting knock, a fluent 88, and Johny Bairstow missed a well-deserved fifty by a run as England enjoyed a productive day out.
There was nothing much to celebrate for the local fans who turned up in huge numbers hoping to see their own R. Ashwin spin a web around the English batsmen. It was a rather mediocre day for Ashwin, the leading wicket-taker of the series at 27, who returned empty handed after bowling 24 overs for 76 runs. All he could muster was one maiden over and a few good deliveries that had beaten Ali’s outside edge. Out of four English wickets, three went to Ravindra Jadeja, while Ishant Sharma, who returned to the team after a break for his wedding, dismissed opener Keyton Jennings for 1.
When Jadeja got the better of his ‘bunny’ Alastair Cook (10) for the fifth time in the series England were far from a convincing start after deciding to bat first on a surface that had some dampness. The England skipper, who crossed the 11,000-mark on Thursday, couldn’t resist the temptation to poke a delivery outside the off-stump and give a low catch to Virat Kohli at first slip.
After captain Cook left the ship wobbling, the onus of surviving through the choppy waters fell on the third-wicket pair of Root and Ali. They not only managed to drop the anchor dutifully, but also kept the scoreboard ticking. While Ali looked shaky, particularly against Ashwin, to begin with, the effervescent Root was at his majestic best.
Though the surface offered decent turn, Ashwin was not as threatening as he was expected to be on his home turf. Amidst chants of his name, the local star was introduced in the 17th over and his first spell
lasted just two overs before changing ends for his second — 12-1-38-0. The third (7-0-31-0) was his most expensive. Ali who had struggled against Ashwin initially and went to lunch having scored just 7 off 44 balls found his feet after the break.
The English batsmen used the sweep shot effectively and were not shy of dancing down the wicket against spinners. Their initial target was Amit Mishra, who made it to the team after Jayant Yadav was sidelined with a hamstring niggle.