Haseeb Hameed’s maiden half-century on debut put England in charge of their own destiny in the first Test against India.
Hameed (62no) helped England to 114 without loss in a session of batting up to stumps on day four in Rajkot, for a lead of 163 after they had bowled the hosts out for 488 despite a defiant 70 from Ravi Ashwin.
At 19, England’s youngest Test debutant opener belied his years to provide the reassurance while his captain and national record runscorer Alastair Cook struggled initially in this second innings.
Cook appeared uncertain against Ravindra Jadeja especially, and also pulled Mohammad Shami just short of deep square-leg early on.
By contrast, Hameed struck Jadeja from the crease over long-off for his first Test six and counted four fours too in a 94-ball 50 of great value to his team and emotional too for his father Ismail, watching in the stands in his own state of origin.
The onus was on England’s openers to calm nerves, after the tourists had to settle at teatime for a first-innings lead of only 49.
As the pitch began to deteriorate, Adil Rashid (four for 114) found most assistance - but Ashwin narrowed the deficit, including in a last-wicket stand of 29 with Shami.
Ashwin was still a run short of his 111-ball half-century, as England’s tenacious bowlers stuck impressively to their arduous task, when Cook put down a straightforward chance at slip off Stuart Broad which would have seen off Shami for a single and secured a lead of 77.
There had been a significant piece of fortune previously for England when Virat Kohli contrived to step on the base of leg-stump with his left leg and dislodge a bail as he went to pull Rashid.
That hit-wicket dismissal was a second success for England in under three overs inside the first hour, after Ajinkya Rahane’s very uncharacteristic misjudgement of length against Zafar Ansari.
The slow left-armer struck with his fifth ball of a new spell when Rahane was bowled off his pad - back and attacking when he ought perhaps to have been forward, and certainly defending.
Seventh-wicket pair Ashwin and Wriddhiman Saha then shared a stand of 64 which was not broken until early afternoon.
Saha survived a half-chance on nine, when a diving Jonny Bairstow was unable to quite get his right glove to an edge which flew fast and low for four off Ben Stokes.
India’s wicketkeeper went on to bring up the 400 by hitting Rashid for six over long-off but shortly after lunch edged behind again - an attempted cut off Moeen Ali - and this time was safely held by Bairstow.
Examples of variable bounce and exaggerated spin were slowly becoming regular rather than occasional, on a pitch which had strongly favoured the batsmen throughout the first three days.
One such instance spelled the end for Jadeja, caught at short-leg.
He was unable to deal with a delivery from Rashid which leapt at him, and the leg-spinner doubled up in his next over when Umesh Yadav’s attempt to dominate on the slog-sweep backfired with a simple catch into the off-side ring from a leading edge.
Cook then missed his chance, and in Broad’s next over Ashwin ramped a boundary just out of the clutches of the leaping Bairstow.
It therefore eventually fell to the returning Moeen to have Ashwin last out, caught on the deep midwicket boundary - before Cook and Hameed were required to restate England’s case in this opening match of five.
After Cook’s early wobbles, there were few alarms, and when Hameed back-cut the two runs he needed for his 50, the mid-pitch handshake came appropriately from an opening partner who a decade earlier had marked his second innings on debut with a century in Nagpur.
England can hope for many more runs to come from their latest discovery - including just a few at least still needed here.