Virat Kohli ended a four-year debate about his ability to negotiate swing and seam to win a sensational personal battle and for his team on a dramatic second day of the Edgbaston Test against England on Thursday. (IND v ENG 1st Test Day 2 – as it happened)
England had been put up as the Indian skipper’s final frontier after failures on his first tour to a country where seaming conditions make life difficult even for the most experienced.
On a day when India’s other batsmen didn’t show spine as they caved in against rookie left-arm pacer Sam Curran, Ben Stokes and James Anderson, Kohli showed what sheer determination and class can achieve.
He won a monumental battle against Anderson, at 36 still a potent force in seaming conditions and who made Kohli’s life difficult after Curran and Stokes together had left India reeling.
Kohli hit a magnificent 149 (225 balls, 22×4, 1×6) before being the last man out to take India within 13 runs of England’s first innings total after they were all out for 274 in the final 30 minutes of play.
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R Ashwin then produced an identical delivery as in the first innings to bowl England opener Alastair Cook for nought, leaving the hosts at 9/1 at stumps to cap a dramatic day for India.
It was a sensational tussle as Anderson bowled 15 overs, separated by lunch and one over by leg-spinner Adil Rashid. In that phase, Kohli faced 43 of his deliveries, and played only two scoring shots, to see off the toughest phase.
He powered on once Anderson was off, racing from a 100-ball fifty to his 22nd century off only 122 deliveries, a masterclass that received a standing ovation from the Edgbaston crowd. Kohli gave a full-throated cry in relief and triumph after carving Stokes past backward point for his 14th four after going into tea on 53.
England though would rue dropping Kohli on 21, off Anderson, and on 51, off Stokes with second slip Dawid Malan the culprit both times. The first chance came with India reduced to 100/5 as England fought back after being 287 all out.
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But Kohli’s discipline of not playing anything outside off-stump, and England wary of bowling into his body or testing him with short deliveries, formed the epic battle.
The innings was doubly remarkable as India’s other batsmen showed no spine despite the pitch hardly being spiteful.
Murali Vijay (20) and Shikhar Dhawan (26) added 50 runs for the first wicket, but once the former was trapped leg before by Curran – the son of late Zimbabwe all-rounder Kevin Curran – the bowler was on a roll.
KL Rahul was bowled second delivery playing away from the body to reduce India to 76/3 at lunch. Stokes then gave his IPL teammate Ajinkya Rahane a torrid time before forcing him to edge one to the slip cordon and bowled Dinesh Karthik.
Kohli though found support in Hardik Pandya (22). England dropped Pandya as well, off Stokes, the delivery after Kohli’s first let-off.
Kohli reached his century in last man Umesh Yadav’s company and took a toll of the England attack with the ball over 70 overs old.
Kohli and Umesh Yadav raised 57 runs, India’s best partnership, and by the time the India skipper played leg-spinner Adil Rashid to Stuart Broad at backward point, the lead had been reduced to almost nothing.
The India skipper had not only made a statement across the cricket world, he had dragged India right back into contention in England’s bastion.