Kohli, Dhoni lead fightback

Cricket Fourth Test: Delhiite scores century while skipper misses out by a run as India reach 297/8

Kohli, Dhoni lead fightback

Now, who would have thought of such a turn of events?

Beginning the day on 87 for four and 243 runs behind England, the Indian batsmen were expected to cave in without a fight. But they scripted a fightback that could easily have fitted into the realm of the Black Swan theory that explains occurrences above normal expectations.

What happened at the VCA stadium on Saturday was indeed well above normal probabilities. India ended the day at 297 for eight -- trailing England by 33 runs -- riding on a hundred by Virat Kohli and a 99 by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But an even more incredible story will unfold when the layers around that visible-to-all piece of statistics are peeled off.

Admittedly, the pitch was as flat as the highways here, and there was no reverse swing for either James Anderson or Tim Bresnan till late into the second session.

But the situation in which the Indians were in made it sure that their mindset would be in question rather than the nature of the surface or any other external elements. On this day, they needed to write their own story – on happy lines or the darker version that they have been penning from Mumbai.

Fortunately, Indians chose to write a happy script that lasted throughout the day, and it was quite apt that skipper Dhoni and Kohli, the man who may succeed him in future, handled the lead roles.

They stitched together 198 runs for the epic fifth-wicket stand, and for the first time in this series a team managed to bat without losing a wicket in two sessions in a row. It was strong statement from India about their willingness to fight hard, and stay alive in the match and give themselves a chance to win this Test, and level the series.

It wasn’t easy in the morning for the hosts batsmen. Anderson managed to get the ball into Dhoni at some pace, and an inside edge saved him from perishing leg before. It was a brute of a ball to receive first up on the day, and at that juncture it seemed English bowlers would run through the Indian line-up as it had happened in the last four innings.

However, with each passing ball that fear ebbed away. Dhoni and Kohli rebuilt the Indian innings brick by brick with patience that would have pleased an Arctic traveller.

Docile pitch

Once the sun began to shine over the venue in full splendor, the English pacers could no longer manage to extract even marginal assistance from the pitch that soon transformed into a docile one.

But that could in no way take the shine away from the Dhoni-Kohli alliance, and the comfort with which they tackled the English bowlers.

The partnership was also signalled a personal victory for Dhoni and Kohli, who scored his third Test hundred. They have been struggling for runs in this series, and the Jharkhand man also had to deal with the additional pressure of being the captain.

There was criticism about his waning powers as a Test batsman and as the leader of men, and he gave a perfect riposte on the day.

The flashy batsman in Dhoni made appearance only once when he smote Graeme Swann over long on for a six, but for a better part of the day, Dhoni the grafter was on view. The bloody-mindedness he showed on the day reminded one about his half-century at Lord’s in 2007 when he helped India hang on for a draw.

At the other end, Kohli showed some panache once he settled down, like an inside out drive off Monty Panesar that crashed through the covers to the ropes as India added 59 runs in the first session, and the middle session saw the home side milking 81 runs as India moved close to England.

As the day progressed late into the last session, England’s worries also increased as Dhoni and Kohli were well on course to bat through the day, but Swann trapped Kohli in front to snap the alliance. A bigger blow came soon when Dhoni, on 99, went for a quick single only to be beaten by Alastair Cook’s throw.

Swann and Anderson managed to purchase two more Indian wickets as Nagpur gradually drifted into darkness but India’s hopes of a turnaround still remained. If only their bowlers can conjure crumbs of magic on the morrow!

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