For all their lapses on the field through this series, India have also benefited from England’s tendency to throw away the advantage by a sudden urge to self-destruct.
Moeen Ali though made it finally count as he cashed in after being dropped on nought to score his second century of the series and guide England to a fighting 284 for four on the first day of the fifth Test here on Friday.
Although Moeen Ali struck 117 in the drawn first Test in Rajkot, his move up by a slot to No 4 had skeptics whether it was too much for the all-rounder, who has been shifted up and down the order.
He was unbeaten on 120 at stumps with England 284 for four at stumps. While India would rue KL Rahul dropping Ali first up against Ravindra Jadeja, Jonny Bairstow throwing his wicket away with the bowlers at his mercy will leave England wondering whether they can get to the 500-mark they need to put pressure on India.
While Ravindra Jadeja took 3/73, Ravichandran Ashwin went wicketless on his home ground.
His dismissal in the Mumbai Test playing a poor shot on 50 saw Ashwin trigger a batting collapse that led to an innings win for India.
On Friday, skipper Alastair Cook chose to bat first and the early dampness on the pitch soon dried up to allow strokeplay.
Still, Ishant Sharma, playing his first game since the West Indies tour, and Jadeja removed openers Cook and Keaton Jennings early. The skipper was drawn into nicking a wide ball to Kohli at slip after Jennings, frustrated by Sharma in his first spell (5-4-1-1), nicked behind.
Jadeja’s 28 overs of control spin were crucial as Amit Mishra, coming in as the third spinner due to Jayant Yadav’s hamstring niggle, didn’t find his rhythm.
The 29-year-old Moeen Ali, who struck 117 in Rajkot, vindicated the move to bat him at No 4.
He raised a 146-run partnership for the third wicket with Root, who fell to Jadeja for 88 after India were successful in their review of a caught behind decision.
Moeen, who got to his fifth career century deep into the final session, also survived two reviews on a mixed day for India with DRS. On both occasions, Jadeja appealed for leg before, but the replays showed it was the umpire’s call as the ball was shown clipping leg-stump.
Although pitches in this series have nowhere near being rank turners, the MA Chidambaram stadium track perhaps was the best for batsmen.
With the bounce on the pitch true after some early unevenness at one end, Root and Moeen could confidently play off the backfoot or sweep, which they did. It particularly left Ashwin and Mishra frustrated.
R Sridhar, India’s fielding coach, accepted that the spinners were forced to bowl faster as the pitch dried up to aid batting. While it was far more easier for Jadeja, who naturally bowls quick, the conditions didn’t really make Ashwin feel at home.
Root said England, with their batting depth, would still look to get to 500 and bring pressure on India. The response of the Indian bowlers in the first session would thus be crucial.