Kohli, Rahane steady Indians

BACK IN FORM: India’s Ajinkya Rahane ended his woeful run by scoring a half-century in the third Test. AP/PTI

Skipper Virat Kohli and his deputy Ajinkya Rahane composed an unfinished fine duet to bail India out of trouble and infuse some much-needed life into their beleaguered campaign on Saturday.

Joining forces at 82/3 after India frittered away a good start, the seasoned duo scored measured unbeaten half-centuries on a nice sun-kissed day at Trent Bridge to help the side reach 189/3 at tea on the opening day of the third Test.

Kohli (51 batting, 91b, 6x4) and Rahane (53 batting, 96b, 7x4), who has been battling indifferent form since Sri Lanka came calling to India last winter, batted with the authority and composure that will quell all the criticism back home and force England skipper Joe Root to think out of the box in what promises to be an engrossing final session.

Apart from India winning a session, the pleasing part of the day was Rahane returning to form. Guilty of throwing his wicket away on all occasions this tour, the Mumbaikar finally looked comfortable at the crease. He took some time to get his eye in and thereafter played an innings of quality that one is accustomed of seeing him in such conditions.

Egged on constantly by his skipper Kohli at the other end, Rahane, aware how important this innings was for him and the team, didn’t do anything silly like he had done at Edgbaston and Lord’s. There were a few risky shots, the cut over slips and point, but he was totally in control of it.

With the pitch easing out and the ball coming on nicely, he started to gain confidence with every ball played. Even before tea, England tried to lure him by pitching it short but he didn’t fall for it like Cheteshwar Pujara. He chose to let them alone to set himself for the bigger prize.

Kohli, at the other end, batted like the man who’s in wonderful form. He knew his stand with Rahane was going to be game-changing and he batted with customary purpose. Barring a couple of inside edges, which happens to any batsman, he totally bossed the English attack. He was superb against the pacers and constantly punished wayward leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

Kohli and Rahane owe their stand to a decent partnership from openers Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul, whose 60-run stand in 18.4 overs ensured the middle-order wasn’t exposed very early. The duo, battling poor form and invited to bat first in cloudy conditions, put up a confident show. With James Anderson and Stuart Broad bowling a tad short, they got the extra time to cope with the movement.

Initially they were happy to present a dead bat or leave the balls alone but once they got the measure of the things, they started to play some handsome shots. The left hand-right hand combo also kept picking up quick singles that made life difficult for Anderson and Broad. The arrival of Ben Stokes also failed to make a difference and just when India were about  to stamp their authority, Chris Woakes changed the game on its head with a superb spell of 6.4-1-18-3.

He first removed Dhawan, a superb out-swinger that squared the left-hander up, the ball taking the edge to Jos Buttler at second slip. A sharp in-swinger then caught a lazy Rahul stranded in front of the stumps at India were reduced to 65/2. Pujara then committed suicide but Kohli and Rahane ensured they won the honours at tea.

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