“From 216 for 3, England ended at 285 for 9, a score that will not really allow them a good night’s sleep.
But if there is one turning point that we need to capture, it was that magical moment of Kohli brilliance”
It is a cliché so deep-rooted in cricket that normally it would not have merited yet another article. However, the event was extraordinary enough to entice even the most cliché-averse writer into eulogising prose.
We have heard often enough that when the batsmen are dominating, on the verge of running away with the game, a moment of brilliance in the field can trigger a turnaround.
But, seldom has this been demonstrated with such telling effect as was done today by the Indian captain.
Joe Root and Johnny Bairstow, two Yorkshiremen on Yorkshire Day, had put England almost firmly on the driver’s seat. 103 had been added in quick time, in just 23 overs.
Root was playing like one of the best batsmen of the world, which he indeed is. Plenty of time to play his strokes, the nimble footwork of a ballet dancer, an old-world flavor in his back cuts and steers. And Bairstow was looking extremely dangerous. He had raced to 64 in 78 balls, hitting boundaries at will as his innings matured.
The score stood at 215 for 3. England were eyeing the big total. Root was on 80, his first target to get to the three-figure mark that has eluded him so often.
And then there was that moment of ethereal brilliance from Virat Kohli.
Kohli the batsman has been the hot topic of conversation. Kohli the captain is definitely another major point of interest for many.
However, the man who made did the star-turn today was Kohli the fielder.
Bairstow, with every comfort in the world, turned Ashwin past square-leg and ran. And Kohli, setting off from short mid-on, sprinted after the ball.
Either the English batsmen had not expected someone to cover the yards t that rate. Or Bairstow, timing the ball magnificently by now, was a bit too eager to get back to the striker’s end. He had, after all, struck five fours in the last five overs.
Hence, they turned for the second. Bairstow was eager. Root did not hesitate. And in the meantime, Kohli had neared the ball.
He picked up at full tilt, swivelled around, and threw off-balance, all in one action. Somehow, even as his back was turned during the chase, he knew which end to target. Root scampered desperately, but while Kohli fell to the ground, the ball shot through the air towards the non-striker’s stumps. Ashwin bent down to collect the return, but he knew it was going to hit the wickets. He did not interfere. Root was far enough out of the ground for Aleem Dar to raise his finger without taking the safe option of sending the decision upstairs.
Root trudged back. Yet another excellent half-century that did not go the full distance. There had not seemed any other way of getting him out. If Kohli’s celebration was exuberant to the extreme, there was a good reason for it.
And this moment of brilliance on the field, against the run of play, turned the tide. The English batting, not really the steadiest of units, fell away.
Already, before the partnership, there had been an indication of gaps.
Dawid Malan has had a long rope and one is struggling to understand the reason to persist with him. Perhaps, if Moeen Ali had not bowled off-breaks, he would have been selected over Malan for his batting. The problem is that Moeen has been branded an off-spinning all-rounder. Therefore, although his batting record is rather better than Malan’s, he lost out with the management deciding on Adil Rashid as the tweaker.
In the 15 Tests Malan has played, he has 704 runs at 28.16. His last 8 innings have got him 132 runs with one half-century. Moeen averages 32 over 50 Tests. He is actually more accomplished as a batsman at Test level.
Dawid Malan not good enough for England. Ollie Pope please #ENGvIND
— Ell (@hendohendo123) August 1, 2018
If England had played Moeen instead of Malan, they could have had the second spinner. There are already indications that both sides will rue the lack of this option, in the second innings in particular. Perhaps India too made the mistake of choosing Pandya over one of Kuldeep and Jadeja.
Of course, Mohammad Shami had played a role in exposing the gaps in the English top order. The paceman surprised all by the alacrity with which he got back into rhythm.
And then the middle order of England is also far from settled. Ben Stokes is going through plenty of problems. Jos Buttler was brilliant against Pakistan, but an average of 33 is not really that of a specialist batsman.
This dismissal of Root created the proverbial crack through which the English innings fell through. Aided by some excellent bowling by Ashwin. The ace off-spinner has perhaps finally evolved into a potent force overseas as well.
From 216 for 3, England ended at 285 for 9, a score that will not really allow them a good night’s sleep.
But if there is one turning point that we need to capture, it was that magical moment of Kohli brilliance. Brilliant enough to even bring a much-flogged cliché to life.