Kevin Pietersen paid tribute to Joe Root after the debutant came out at No6 and made 31 not out to help stabilise the England innings just as it threatened to fall apart.
"Joe was brilliant," he said. "He is his own man and he played some lovely cricket shots. You can never judge a batsman after just a couple of hours at the crease but he showed signs that he could have a good Test career. He is a good little player, a lovely man and a good human being."
Root, an opener by trade, was given an unexpected debut in the unfamiliar role ahead of Samit Patel and entered the fray with England at 119 for four after winning the toss and choosing to bat. Ian Bell had just fallen for a single run but Root, first with Pietersen (73) and then with Matt Prior (34 not out), steadied the ship to leave England on 199 for five at the close.
Pietersen, who played an unusual innings since it was most memorable mostly for its self-denial, said it was hard for batsmen to dominate the revamped India attack. "That was tough," he said. "It's the toughest pitch I've played on in terms of playing strokes … 200 for five should be an OK position, though I've no clue what will happen on that wicket. But, my goodness, it's slow. We may be in a position of strength because we have two seamers in the team. Ishant [Sharma] was incredibly difficult to face on there."
India opted to play just one seamer, Sharma. Meanwhile England were compelled to recall Tim Bresnan as a partner for Jimmy Anderson. Stuart Broad was ruled unfit for this game and for the two T20 matches that follow it. Likewise Steven Finn, who has a strained disc in his lower back after his successful return to the side in Kolkata, will play no further part in the tour. Both will be heading home imminently.
Much more of a shock was the inclusion of Bresnan's Yorkshire colleague, Root. To give Root his debut in such an important match was a bold call by the selectors and it looked a good one, even though he has hardly ever batted down the order in his first-class career.
For a while the England batsmen tended to treat the Nagpur pitch as a minefield. It was horribly slow, which makes shot-making very difficult, but on this surface it can also be horribly difficult to remove obstinate batsmen, as Pietersen, and to general delight and consternation, Root demonstrated.
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