A masterclass from Virat Kohli at Edgbaston…..
Day 2. Session 2.
27 overs bowled, producing 84 runs for the loss of 3 wickets.
As the umpires called for tea, Virat Kohli walked back … unbeaten on 53, having just survived one of the toughest two-hour periods of his career.
The two middle hours of the day saw him notch 44 runs, off 80 balls. He was dropped twice, on both occasions by the unfortunate Dawid Malan.
First off James Anderson, a dolly that went into the palms of the Middlesex captain and out again. And then almost at the stroke of tea, the Indian skipper jammed down on a Ben Stokes delivery outside the off. The edge travelled fast and knee-high to Malan’s right. It was difficult. But this is Test cricket. Such catches need to be held.
Hence, at the end of a gruelling session, Kohli was still there. Men had succumbed around him. He had come very, very close to losing his own wicket. But he had hung on.
And he went on to script an epic.
This was Test cricket, at its sublime best.
The pitch with a decent amount of help for the seamers, the bowlers sending down testing spells, using the conditions to the fullest.
One of the very best in the business of seam and swing was out there to prove a point. Along with him, a maverick all-rounder was showing indications of having got his mojo back to the brimful.
The Duke ball was being made to talk eloquently from both ends.
And one of the best batsmen of the world was resisting them with his bat, heart and soul, eager to make a mark in the only land that has denied him success so far.
It was cricket at its most dramatic. Often events registered in the scorebooks as a dot ball, but the atmosphere became tense enough to be cut with a knife.
Running in from one end was Jimmy Anderson. The man, in terms of wickets-tally, within a hairbreadth of the great Glenn McGrath. His target was the Indian captain. The rivalry between the two goes a long way.
At the other end was Ben Stokes, bowling at his very best.
Lunch had been taken at 76 for 3, with young Sam Curran having polished off the Indian top-order. India had started brightly, the openers proceeding to 50 without much trouble before the young left-armer had skidded off the pitch and struck thrice in quick succession.
After the break, Stokes was put on at one end. Kohli steered him for four, and then drove him through the covers for another. The first over went for 9 runs.
And then came that riveting period of play.
Anderson had already bowled 10 overs for 20 runs without taking a wicket. His spell had been prolonged before the break because Kohli had come in just as the Lancashire swing merchant was ready to take a breather. With the stakes really sky-high, he continued from the other end after the break.
After the lackadaisical first over, there commenced a 10-over phase, through which a mere 17 runs were scored, 2 wickets were lost, two catches went begging and a reprieve was obtained through a review.
Five of them were bowled by Stokes, costing 6 runs in exchange of both the wickets.
Ajinkya Rahane was induced to flirt with one that moved away, and was taken in the slips. Prior to that the Indian middle order man had played and missed several times.
Dinesh Karthik played outside the line of a late in-swinger and lost his middle-stump.
Hardik Pandya was spilt at first slip by Alastair Cook, and was given out leg-before before the reviews showed it was missing leg.
Even Kohli was made to turn square and miss a delivery that zipped through and would have been impossible to negotiate for any batsman living or dead.
The other five overs were sent down by Anderson, going for 7 runs without a wicket. The ball found Kohli’s edge and it went into the hands of Malan at third slip and out. Several times the edge just about missed the diabolically swinging deliveries.
The line was scrupulously on the off or outside. The movement ever present, often late. The pressure tottering near breaking point.
There was a 26-ball period during which Kohli remained scoreless.
But he fought on.
Men came and went at the other end, they struggled, they survived, they perished. Kohli too struggled, but he carried on.
Yes, Sam Curran was successful. Very much so. Stuart Broad was not too bad either.
And Virat Kohli went on to play one of the greatest knocks ever seen in recent times. Especially when Umesh Yadav walked out as the last man, he threaded a deep-set field with twos and fours, and one solitary six, in the manner of a master craftsman.
Edgbaston is a notoriously difficult strip for the Indian batsmen to negotiate. In the 6 times they had played here before this, there had been just one century.
It should not be a surprise to know that the man who scored that was Sachin Tendulkar, in 1996. He had got 122 out of 218, the second highest score in that innings had been 18.
Kohli’s innings was of the same pedigree, if not better. He got 149 of 274. The next highest was Shikhar Dhawan with 26.
But the key phase of play was that 10-over period, during which the Indian skipper scored 5 runs off 31 balls and just about managed to stick it out.
Sometimes, that is all it takes.