SPORT

Brave Kohli saves India’s blushes

PILING IT ON:England captain Alastair Cook reached a personal milestone of 30 centuries in Tests.— Photo: K.R. Deepak

PILING IT ON:England captain Alastair Cook reached a personal milestone of 30 centuries in Tests.— Photo: K.R. Deepak  

CRICKET / Despite the draw, it’s a moral victory for England

India faced pressure for the first time at home in four years by a visiting team’s spin department that did not have great bragging rights to flaunt.

Off-spinner Moeen Ali was the most experienced and he had the left-arm Zafar Ansari and wrist spinner Adil Rashid, with ability to bowl the back of the hand variety, to support.

Alastair Cook, who reached a personal milestone of 30 centuries, chose to give his bowlers just 49 overs to skittle out India on a virtually powder top surface.

The three English spinners were expected to bowl the most, given that the pitch had become worse in the last three hours of the first Test here.

Outstanding display

They did, but India’s captain Virat Kohli halted them in their tracks with an outstanding display of attack and defence with the bat. He was the man of the hour during the second half on Sunday.

It was a ‘heart in the mouth’ feeling for the biggest turnout in five days of the inaugural Test match here, and also for the home players in the dressing room, when the England spinners were in action.

Kohli, however, calmed their nerves and proved that he is a cut above the rest when trying to overcome anxious situations. The Indian captain saved the first Test for his team with a remarkable show of grit, guts and gumption and most importantly demonstrated the technical proficiency that was absent among many of his colleagues.

Rahane falls cheaply

After being in the vanguard of India’s fight back, following another cheap dismissal of Ajinkya Rahane, who was probably undone by a Moeen delivery that landed on the widest crack of a dry surface, Kohli returned to the dressing room with another feather in his cap.

Local boy Ravindra Jadeja’s boundary-hitting in the closing stages of the match — that went beyond the mandatory 15 overs to meet the correct closure time — was welcome entertainment.

The England captain declared the second innings after parrying away the Indian attack with a great deal of comfort along with the wonder boy opener Haseeb Hammed. The 19-year-old impressed for nearly four hours, with his defence and attack.

It was much against the run of play that he offered a straight forward catch to the third ball delivered by leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who escaped a no-ball penalty by a fraction.

England’s opening pair had laid a solid foundation raising 180, and when Mishra struck again forcing a top-edge from Joe Root, it was a question of when Cook would declare.

Cook took a single to complete his century; it was classy and inspired Hameed. R. Ashwin dismissed got the wicket of Cook when he holed out to Jadeja at long-off and England declared setting India a target of 310 in 49 overs.

India began the fourth innings losing the wicket of Gautam Gambhir without a run on the board as Chris Woakes had the left-hander caught by Root at second slip.

Thereafter M. Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara seemed to be in no discomfort, although many deliveries turned, skidded and jumped.

Cook rotated his spinners, bringing in Ansari first who dropped a hot chance when Vijay drove back hard.

The left-arm spinner also saw Stuart Broad drop Pujara at backward point, but England achieved a breakthrough when Rashid managed got a leg-before appeal in his favour from Kumar Dharmasena.

Pujara walked and the replays confirmed that the ball had pitched outside the leg-stump. Pujara was in the best position to know where the ball had pitched, but he did not press for the DRS. Vijay had already turned his back after the umpire had given Pujara out.

From 47 for one, India slipped to 71 for four and Ashwin joined his captain. There were five fielders, sometimes six, when Mooen was in action.

Thankfully, Ashwin turned out to be an ideal foil. He got the benefit of the DRS once as he and Kohli repaired the innings by playing out 15 overs.

This partnership almost made sure a draw would be the outcome, although the skipper and Jadeja had to play out 10 overs to steer India to safety.

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