Magnificent Kohli stands tall

MAJESTIC: Indian captain Virat Kohli en route his century against England on the second day of the first Test. AFP

Skipper Virat Kohli scored a masterful century to single-handedly lead an Indian fightback after his fellow batsmen’s inadequacies against the seaming and swinging ball almost derailed their ambitions in the opening Test against England here on Thursday.

Battling through the wreckage caused by the unheralded left-arm medium-pacer Sam Curran and testing bowling from the rest of the English pace pack, Kohli struck a chance-filled but pugnacious century (149, 225b, 22x4, 1x6) to help India reach 274 all out on another fascinating day of Test cricket at Edgbaston. England, who were bowled out for 287 in the morning, took stumps at 9/1, for an overall lead of 22 runs.

Kohli first saw his top-order blown away by Curran in the morning session and then the middle-order flattened by Ben Stokes in the second. He then ran out of partners in the final period but, batting with the tail, Kohli laid siege on the English bowlers like only he can, raising 92 runs with the final two batsmen en route to a first Test century in Old Blighty.

Such was the quality of the knock, that even rival skipper Joe Root — whom Kohli mocked at after running him out spectacularly on the opening day — applauded when the Delhiite square drove to bring up his 22nd Test ton.

Kohli, whose last tour to England was a complete disaster after he managed just 134 runs in five Tests, was pushed to the limits at the start. His nemesis James Anderson tested and teased him with the fifth-stump line that induced four edges with three of them falling short and one dropped by David Malan at second slip when he was on 21.

Kohli was dropped again by the same slip fielder just after he had reached his half-century and he made the utmost use of those two life-lines to show why he considered as one of the premier batsmen in world cricket at the moment.

During the phase when England were in complete control, he buckled down and chose to play the waiting game. Barring a couple of loose shots, he was in complete control of his innings and laid down the markers that he’s here in England to make a major statement.

Kohli only started to open his shoulders when Ishant joined him at the middle with India reeling at 182-8. On 67 then, Kohli tackled the situation intelligently, playing the big shots early on in the over and then giving Ishant and final batsman Umesh very little to play.

Kohli’s brilliance though doesn’t mask the Indian batsmen’s frailties against quality seam blowing. Murali Vijay, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were all blown away in a sensational 14-ball blitz by Curran. Vijay was late on his shot, Rahul fell for the sucker ball by trying an expansive drive off the second ball of his innings only to see the ball rattle his stumps and Dhawan edged an out-swinger.

Although Vijay and Dhawan saw off Anderson and Stuart Broad, they stumbled the moment the ball started to do things. Rahane also looked all at sea against Ben Stokes and although he safely retreated for lunch, his stay ended soon after resumption, a nothing shot against a short delivery resulting in an easy catch for Keaton Jennings. If not for the sheer brilliance of Kohli and wonderful resistance from the tail, India could have been staring at a big defeat. Now they have a chance to make a match out of it.

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Magnificent Kohli stands tall

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