The Indian captain was nothing short of inspirational through the course of the second day of the first Test here on Thursday, but what hurt the Indian fans was the capitulation of the rest. It’s true that India are in a fighting position with England 9-1 at stumps on Day Two after taking a 13-run lead, but it has nothing to do with a batting line-up that flatters to deceive time and again.
The stage was perfectly set for the Indian batsmen after England were bowled out for 287 in the first session. The openers Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay didn’t look too troubled in the first few overs, putting up 50. But according to experts, the Dukes ball starts to swing more after the first few overs and that’s when the Indians started faltering.
It’s true that England’s left-arm pacer Sam Curran 4-74 kept swinging the ball in, but he does it at a pace of less than 130 km/hr and it shouldn’t be a problem for players who have spent quite some time in international cricket. But while Vijay got caught in the crease to be leg-before for 26, KL Rahul (4), the man who replaced Cheteshwar Pujara, played a horrendous shot away from the body to drag it onto the stumps. Dhawan has probably been selected in the XI on the basis of hope rather than conviction and the left-hander, after getting beaten twice in one over, nicked the third to make his way to the cooler climes of the pavilion.
Ajinkya Rahane (15) is a player of class. But Ben Stokes and James Anderson, in a spell of hostile swing and pace bowling, kept troubling both Kohli and the Mumbai batsman. Kohli was dropped a couple of times at second slip by Dawid Malan but Rahane wasn’t so lucky. Stokes got one to jump and induced the nick to send him home.
It was a period of play when England, with the variety in their attack, put a lot of pressure on India. While Anderson, despite being 37, kept running in to relentlessly attack the off-stump of the right-handers, Stokes showed that he too was coming back into the groove. The allrounder was tireless, bowling for a period of one-and-a-half hours as India kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
With the score on 169-7, it seemed that a familiar tale of Indian capitulation was on the cards before Kohli said ‘enough is enough’. He showed his cricket intelligence and skill to take the England attack apart in that phase. As England kept getting defensive, Kohli became all the more brutal to find gaps with effortless ease and the lead kept coming down in leaps and bounds. When leggie Adil Rashid finally got him for 149, the lead had shrunk to 13.
And as if to honour Kohli’s show, R Ashwin came up with a replay of the first innings to get Alastair Cook‘s wicket in the last ball of the day to make it India’s day.