Nottingham | Virat Kohli’s dogged determination was well complemented by Ajinkya Rahane’s application as India put up their best batting performance of the series reaching 307 for 6 against England on the first day of the third cricket Test.
The Indian captain missed out on a well-deserved by a whisker as his 97 came off 152 balls while Rahane also looked good for a three figure before Alastair Cook’s reflex catch brought about his downfall at 81.
Together, the Indian skipper and his deputy added 159 runs for the fourth wicket to lay a solid foundation.
After the batting debacle in first two Tests, a collective performance was the order of the day and Kohli-Rahane duo were helped by the fact that openers Shikhar Dhawan (35) and KL Rahul (23) added 60 runs to lay the foundation.
Kohli’s innings had 11 boundaries and with only three runs remaining for a coveted 23rd Test hundred, Kohli went for an expansive cover drive off a tossed-up delivery from leg-spinner Adil Rashid (1/46 in 9 overs) only to be snapped by Ben Stokes at first slip.
This is only the second time in Kohli’s career that he has been dismissed in the 90’s. He would feel more dejected because Rashid was the weakest link in the England attack leaking runs with rank long hops.
Before that Rahane, who got his first half-century in more than a year, found Cook standing at first slip taking a sharp one-handed reflex catch off Stuart Broad’s (1/64 in 21 overs) bowling.
Rahane’s 131-ball knock had 12 boundaries but more importantly, he seemed to have found his rhythm while batting. The square of the wicket shots, the cover drives were there to see,
Both Kohli and Rahane showed enough patience waiting for the loose deliveries, leaving a lot of deliveries outside the off-stump.
Jimmy Anderson (1/52 in 22 overs) bowled a probing spell but both the batsmen didn’t take any unnecessary risk against the senior fast bowler.
For Kohli, who has been troubled by back problem, was in his zone as he ran a lot of singles and twos. The duo always kept the scoreboard ticking despite the England bowlers maintaining a good channel.
The standout shot in Kohli’s innings would certainly be the bowler’s back drive off Chris Woakes (3/75 in 20 overs) while Rahane also hit the bowler through the covers in the same over.
Rahane hit a few square cuts as he prepared to play late at times, something that he didn’t do in the first two Tests.
One such square brought up his 13th fifty in Test match cricket. When he reached a personal score of 59, the Mumbaikar completed 3000 runs in longest format.
The biggest positive was how Kohli-Rahane resurrected the innings just when it looked that things will once again fall apart after a good start.
Woakes removed Dhawan, Rahul and Cheteshwar Pujara (14) in quick succession as India from 60 for no loss went into the lunch at 82 for 3.
However Rahane-Kohli ensured that from lunch to tea, India didn’t lose a wicket and added 107 runs in that particular session. They played their shots, ran their singles and twos as India maintained a healthy run-rate of 3.52 pe over throughout the day.
In the final hour, debutant Rishabh Pant created some buzz with his first scoring stroke in Test cricket being a straight six off Rashid.
One of the most talked about youngster in Indian cricket, Pant (22 batting) clipped Broad through vacant mid-wicket region to show why he is so highly rated.
Hardik Pandya (14 off 58 balls) was ready to grind it out before Anderson snapped him up with the last ball of the day. After bowling an inswinger, Anderson bowled his traditional outswinger as Pandya pushed hard at the delivery. The edge was taken by Jos Buttler in the slips.
Earlier, Dhawan, dropped after the Birmingham Test, opened the innings and initially showed more patience as he played 65 balls hitting seven boundaries in the process.
Anderson and Broad bowled a tad short and the ball didn’t swing much in the first hour of play as India were well placed at 43-0.
But it didn’t take anything away from the solid job done by the opening pair. In fact, this was India’s highest opening partnership outside Asia and West Indies since December 2013.
India’s 50 came in the 17th over. After drinks break though, things changed as Woakes bowled a fuller length and started troubling the batsmen immediately.
Dhawan was caught at second slip by Buttler as he edged one off Woakes in the 19th over.
Two overs later, Rahul was trapped leg before as Woakes set him up beautifully. He bowled successive outswingers before bringing one back in. Rahul opted for DRS, but that didn’t work in his favour either.
Things looked to be going smoothly despite these twin blows before Pujara’s indiscretion could have cost India dearly but Kohli and Rahane were equal to the task.