India vs England: Virat Kohli pauses to carry batting partners along at Trent Bridge
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India vs England: Virat Kohli pauses to carry batting partners along at Trent Bridge

Virat Kohli led from the front with a well-made hundred to strengthen India’s iron grip on the third Test against England at Trent Bridge on Monday.

cricket Updated: Aug 21, 2018 11:11 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
N Ananthanarayanan
Hindustan Times, Nottingham
India vs England,Virat Kohli,Trent Bridge
India’s Virat Kohli, left, and Cheteshwar Pujara encourage each other during Day 3 of the third Test against England at Trent Bridge.(AP)

On the eve of the Trent Bridge Test, Virat Kohli was asked at the pre-match media conference if careers were at stake for India batsmen going into the match. “About me?” he enquired a touch incredulously, before the question was put to him again, explaining it was about those who had failed to leave the visitors trailing 2-0 in the series.

India had been pretty much about their skipper in the last few seasons, especially since the start of 2018 when they began the first of three tough overseas assignments in South Africa. Kohli banished questions about his poor England record of 2014 with a brilliant 149 in the first Test at Edgbaston, though as skipper he desperately needed the other batsmen to join the party.

And Trent Bridge has witnessed that team turnaround. On Monday, Kohli completed his 23rd century, which would have been the 24th but for his getting out for 97 in the first innings. Unlike Edgbaston, he had ensured he had wingmen in both innings, putting India on course for a remarkable turnaround win.

It was a different version of Kohli. In Edgbaston, he withstood a monumental battle with England spearhead James Anderson. And though he won that personal duel, and bowlers delivered 20 wickets for the fourth overseas Test in a row, other batsmen were a let down.

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In Trent Bridge though, Kohli batted as an equal partner, with Ajinkya Rahane in the first innings and Cheteshwar Pujara in the second. Both batsmen needed plenty of assurance going into the match, not sure about their form or role in the side, and they would have been lifted by their knocks.

In the first innings, Rahane’s 81, and his 159-run partnership with Kohli helped overcome the vice-captain’s batting blues. When Rahane was out, Kohli was only on 75. And when Pujara, who took his time on the third morning as the pair built on the advantage, fell on 72, the skipper was on 68.

Kohli’s knock stood out for patience, waiting for the bad balls. There was never an attempt to dominate the bowling though India’s lead was well past 350 and England didn’t have a chance to come back. Pujara took his time to build his innings and the confidence the India No 3 gained will be vital.

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Kohli, who had recovered from a stiff back to play in the Test, batted almost six hours (293 minutes) before he fell leg before to Chris Woakes after tea on the third day with England’s bowling wearing a beaten look. His fifty-to-century conversion rate – 23 tons to 17 50s – was being praised, though a strike rate of around 50, well below his career mark, suggested his different outlook.

By the time the Indian skipper lost his review to a leg before decision and lefft to a standing ovation from the packed Trent Bridge crowd, he knew he had accomplished two objectives – set the tone for a huge win with two days left and nurse India’s batting to health.

First Published: Aug 21, 2018 10:20 IST