These lines from a Robert Browning poem, “God’s in his heaven and all’s right with the world” could well sum up the first day’s play for India. (SCOREBOARD)
Everything, right from the toss, the nature of the wicket and the magnificent responses from Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara, combined to give India the start it needed after getting bruised in the first Test at Rajkot. (HIGHLIGHTS)
On a wicket, which we are told will turn and turn as the match progresses, winning the toss was of vital significance. Virat Kohli won that crucial first round without a ball being bowled. His two openers, however, muffed up this god sent gift, losing out to a new ball which did nothing, either off the wicket or in the air. KL Rahul, back in the team after an injury had forced him out, fell to the off side trap set by Chris Broad, playing a loose defensive prod to a wide out-swinger. The elegant Murali Vijay followed his partner, unable to keep a short ball from Jimmy Anderson down.
These two shock dismissals had the England tail up but the celebrations did not last long, as Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli got together to build a partnership that put India on the path to recovery and dominance.
This duo plays the red leather in contrasting styles. Pujara plays more to control the ball while Kohli looks for every opportunity to dominate it. Pujara’s footwork is more textbook, unlike Kohli, who makes a lot of adjustments to unleash his strokes. Pujara may appear timid in comparison to Kohli’s ability to make the bowlers pay for their lapses; however, what makes them equally effective is the desire to score big and achieve that goal more often than not.
Though the wicket is expected to spin, and it did show signs of that very late in the day, but by then both batsmen had passed the century mark. Pujara, by virtue of having come ahead of Kohli, was the first to reach that feat, his third in successive Tests. It was another reminder to bury the thought of imagining an India XI without this prolific scorer in Test match cricket.
Kohli in the second innings of the Rajkot Test, perhaps, played his best ever innings, though the scoreboard will show his score as a mere 49. It was a kind of innings -- played while wickets were falling and the turning ball doing all sorts of things – that a batsman values far more than the hundreds scored in flat conditions.
The greater value of that innings lay in the complete self-assurance and control Kohli exercised under extreme pressure. In contrast, Thursday’s innings must have been a breeze. The conditions were perfect to bat on, though India had lost two early wickets when Kohli came in to bat. There were two occasions when he could have lost his wicket: both times he lost control of a short ball. The first time the ball raced to the fence and the second time,
Adil Rashid dropped him. These were moments for England to rue and India to thank their luck.
Kohli, unmindful of these lapses, played on serenely and the unusually muted celebration after he completed his century, is a sign of a fast maturing cricketer who the opponents should increasingly dread in times to come.