India finally show some spine

India’s Virat Kohli celebrates after scoring a half-century against England on Saturday. Reuters

Much of the beleaguered Indian batting line-up finally showed some ‘character and discipline’ but England rode on some opportunistic strikes against the run of play as both teams shared the honours on the opening day of the third Test on Saturday.

Skipper Virat Kohli (97, 152b, 11x4) and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane (81, 131b, 12x4) led the resurrection with a well composed 159-run partnership for the fourth wicket but their dismissals while seemingly set for centuries allowed England to make a comeback in the final session of the day at Trent Bridge. India took stumps at 307/6.

Kohli, the only Indian batsman who has looked in good touch in this series, was yet again in commandeering form on a day that marked a decade of his initiation as an international cricketer. Taking guard just before lunch with India frittering away a good start, the Delhiite and Rahane together went about composing a superb duet that finally put some smiles back on the faces of the fans.

Both Kohli and Rahane were watchful to start with. While Rahane, battling poor form since the Sri Lanka series last November-December, was keen to prove a point, Kohli wanted just one thing — make runs and take India to a commanding position in a do-or-die game. After settling in on a pitch that didn’t have the demons of Lord’s where the Indian batting suffered a severe capitulation, both Kohli and Rahane started to bat like they always do.

Kohli kept picking up the quick singles, keeping himself busy right throughout, but seldom missing out on depositing the bad balls to the boundary. Rahane, on the other hand, constantly mixed aggression with caution. He looked to have learnt the lessons of the past by refusing to get sucked into the drive just outside the off-stump but gambled on playing his favourite shot — the cut and slash over slips or point.

Together they batted the entire second session — first for India this tour — as the visitors finally made England bowlers grind. England pacers too were guilty of blowing a tad short, giving the batsmen the extra second to judge the movement, and Kohli and Rahane gleefully accepted the gift.

Having raised 107 runs in the second session, they pressed the accelerator after tea with both batsmen creaming boundaries at will. England were on the defensive and just when their skipper Joe Root was looking bereft of ideas, Rahane played a loose shot to gift his wicket away. Hometown hero Stuart Broad pitched it up and Rahane played an expansive drive, the ball taking the edge and Alastair Cook completing a brilliant catch.

The onus was then on Kohli to carry his team forward and he looked on course for a 23rd Test century before being undone by Adil Rashid. The leg-spinner, who neither batted nor bowled in the second Test and was totally off-colour here too, ended up bagging the wicket England dreaded for. With Kohli on 97, Rashid enticed him by throwing one up. Kohli, looking to get to landmark in glorious fashion, went for his patented cover drive only to end up edging the ball. A shocked Kohli berated himself after succumbing in the 90s for just the second time in his Test career while England rejoiced.

England took the new ball soon after, hoping to make further inroads. Hardik Pandya and debutante Rishabh Pant withstood most of the pressure before the former fell to Anderson to bring an end to an exciting day of cricket.

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India finally show some spine

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