This Indian Test team is increasingly looking like world beaters. On Saturday, they provided proof at the headquarters of Indian cricket, Mumbai, as to why they are rated so highly.
Finishing brightly on 451 for seven, India have taken a lead of 51 runs with three wickets in hand. But, nothing came easy. It was a gripping day’s play where England tested India all the way. (SCORECARD)
Even though they were playing at home, there was the pressure of the scoreboard, and run-making was not easy for the batsmen.
The rock on which this team is building its reputation is Virat Kohli. Once again, when the situation demanded, the Indian skipper produced a special performance to push back England’s charge. Building on opener Murali Vijay’s solid 136 (10 fours, three sixes), Kohli batted all day to return unconquered on 147 (17 fours) to put his team in a positron from where they can look to dominate. (DAY 3 HIGHLIGHTS)
England’s best chance to seize the initiative was when they reduced India to 307 for six. But, Ravindra Jadeja (25 runs) and Jayant Yadav (batting 30) played fine supporting roles to help Kohli tide over the situation with partnerships of 57 and unfinished 87, respectively.
England had rattled India early when Jake Ball bowled Cheteshwar Pujara on the second ball of the day. But Vijay and Kohli shared a 116-run partnership to shut the door quickly with their positive start.
Kohli was severe on any width or when the bowler drifted to middle and leg, while Vijay looked to target the bowlers with a straight swing of the bat. Also, they didn’t allow Cook to choose his field with excellent running between the wickets.
Most fascinating was how Kohli paced his innings, depending on the situation and his batting partners. The big innings was a reward as much for the patience he showed, as for his quality of stroke-making.
In between the flourish to the hundred and the brisk start, there was a long period of play when he had to stay restrained against the England spinners, especially Adil Rashid.
After his fifth four to move from 31 to 35, he waited for 83 balls to hit his next boundary. When Rashid and Moeen kept things tight, he played out the period. Kohli had decided to play from his crease, relying only on the depth or the full stretch. Rashid, bowling unchanged all through the second session, was giving nothing away. He had raced to 40 off 65 balls, but his 50 took 111 balls.
Only after Karun Nair, Parthiv Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin fell in quick succession that Kohli switched gears. The effortlessness with which he did was striking. In a 19-ball period, he smashed four boundaries, targeting the spinners with sweep, pull and cuts.
With the captain going strong and Jayant looking the part, India will be confident of adding another 100-odd runs on Sunday. It will be a very handy lead in these conditions. The team which bowls fourth, will fancy its chances. But, India’s spinners are better and can be as dangerous on the fourth day as England’s will be on the fifth.