Before the start of this England series, Virat Kohli’s average against them was just 20.12. It was a stat which confounded many Indian cricket fans. It seemed England was a jinx that would haunt the Indian Test skipper. In the Rajkot Test, he was out hit wicket for the first time while in the second innings, he ended up on 49* as he helped India save the Test. (SCORECARD)
However, on the first day of the Vizag Test, Kohli finally broke the jinx as he registered a magnificent century, his 14th overall and second against England to put India in the driver’s seat. He also became the sixth Indian to score a century in his 50th Test .
While Kohli finally broke his jinx, it was business as usual for Cheteshwar Pujara, who continued his domination of England at home with his 10th century. It is worth noting that Pujara got to his ton first by launching Adil Rashid into the stands at deep mid wicket to bring up his fourth century against England and his third consecutive ton.
The celebrations that followed Kohli’s century was a sight to see. He did not show any emotion. He just lifted his bat, acknowledged the crowd and went about the task to grind England down. The determination and the coming-of-age of Virat Kohli was evident in Vizag. He continued his good work and had notched up his fourth 150-plus score in Tests as India reached 317/4 at stumps on the first day
Kohli overcomes Anderson
The prime reason for Kohli’s poor form against England was the James Anderson factor. In nine Tests, he has dismissed him five times, the most by a bowler. With Murali Vijay having gotten out to a magnificent short ball for 22, the pressure was on Kohli to deliver.
With Anderson maintaining a tight line around off stump, Kohli took his time. His first false stroke was when he top-edged a pull shot from Anderson but it landed safely at fine leg. He got going with a couple of boundaries to swing the momentum towards India. Despite some streaky strokes, Kohli never lost momentum and maintained a brisk rate of scoring.
Survives Short-ball Barrage
Having kept Anderson out, Kohli survived a probing spell from Ben Stokes, who maintained a short-ball barrage during the middle session. The plan to attack the short ball almost did not work out as Kohli once again top-edged a pull shot to fine leg but Adil Rashid dropped the catch.
In the next ball, Kohli got an inside edge to a short ball on to his body but he was unflustered. The Indian skipper rubbed salt into Stokes’ wound by pulling yet another bouncer to the fine leg fence. He made smooth progress as he neared his century with a couple of boundaries off Moeen and he got to his landmark in style by driving Anderson, his nemesis, to cover for a couple.
At the other end, Pujara was batting with assured solidity. He got off the mark in style by driving Broad to cover to notch up 3000 Test runs. He did not play a single false stroke and slowly, he built a magnificent platform for India.
The Saurashtra right-hander was lucky to survive a run-out but that did not deter him. On 54, he survived a review as England appealed for an LBW. Following that reprieve, Pujara upped his strike-rate and dealt mostly in boundaries. He got going by pulling left-arm orthodox spinner Zafar Ansari for a big six over deep mid wicket and followed it up with a four down the ground.
He tackled Rashid well by using his feet while he used his timing to blunt Broad. Pujara reached the landmark in style as he continued his purple patch in 2016. However, he departed for 119 when he chased a short and wide ball from Anderson. The 226-run partnership has given India the initiative.
The exploits of Kohli and Pujara will go a long way in healing the wounds which both batsmen suffered on their tour to England in 2014, where they averaged in the low 20s. This performance will be even sweeter if it contributes to an Indian victory.