Century-maker Ali heads fightback

Moeen Ali took centre stage with an unbeaten hundred as England overcame their sticky start to the Fifth Test against India in Chennai

Friday, 16th December 2016, 10:46 am
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 10:06 am
Moeen Ali salutes his century

Joe Root (88) and Jonny Bairstow fell 10 and 12 runs short respectively of their fellow Yorkshire batsman Michael Vaughan’s 2002 all-time English record of 1,481 runs in a calendar year.

It therefore fell to Moeen (120no) to finish what he started with a 203-ball century, his fifth in Tests and first at the number four position he has inherited on this tough tour, out of a stumps total of 284 for four at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

For good measure, when he moved to 108, the all-rounder became the fourth England batsman this year to pass 1,000 Test runs - a feat achieved just once previously by any team from this country, a decade ago.

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England’s prosperity, after Alastair Cook won his fourth toss out of five, was a world away from the troubles of 21 for two - not to mention the strife which has beset them for much of a series lost in Mumbai last week, when they went 3-0 down with just this final match to play.

Root oversaw the initial stages of recovery, after openers Cook and Keaton Jennings both went in the first hour.

He will almost certainly have one more innings here to overtake Vaughan’s record - but has already taken his uncanny sequence of at least a half-century in each Test he has played against India to 11 since he made 73 on debut in Nagpur in 2012.

Root and Moeen’s third-wicket partnership of 146 was a slow-burner, in stifling conditions, but a precious and increasingly proactive one.

Moeen - dropped on nought when he flicked his first runs through the outstretched hands and over the head of KL Rahul at midwicket, off Ravindra Jadeja (three for 73) - was then circumspect on the way to just seven from 44 balls at lunch.

But in early afternoon, he brought up the half-century stand with a swept four off Ravi Ashwin - a shot Root would repeat within the hour to take their alliance into three figures.

By the time the vice-captain fell, caught-behind from an under-edge on a sweep at Jadeja detected only by technology on DRS after an initial not-out verdict, he had hit 10 fours from 144 balls.

He cut a frustrated figure too, though, mouthing his irritation after the decision was overturned and kicking the boundary marker on his way off - having turned only three of his last 17 Test 50s into hundreds.

That is an anomaly for the man tipped to replace Cook as captain either in the very near or at least medium-term future.

He has nonetheless had a fruitful year, marginally less so than the prolific Bairstow - who fell tamely a single short of his half-century, driving Jadeja low to cover and therefore unable to cash in on a significant stroke of luck on 38 when Parthiv Patel could have stumped him by yards if he had gathered one that went through the advancing batsman and over leg-stump.

Moeen too had another escape, on 83, when umpire’s call came to his aid after Amit Mishra went to DRS for lbw with a leg-break which struck the left-hander in line but was not quite going on to hit enough of leg-stump.

Cook, who will be 32 on Christmas Day, was responsible for the day’s first notable statistic when he became the youngest man to reach 11,000 runs with a push off Umesh Yadav to cover - where a misfield brought him two to start the Test.

There were to be only another eight for him here, though, before he fell to his tour nemesis Jadeja - who got him for the fifth time in the series via an edge to slip on the front-foot defence.

Jennings had earlier added just a 17-ball single, following his maiden hundred and then golden duck on debut last week, when he edged a drive behind at the ultra-economical Ishant Sharma from round the wicket.

England were on a rocky road again, but Root and most of all Moeen brought the stabilisers.