Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 3, 2018

England vs India First Test Day Two

A healthy Thursday crowd witnessed an extraordinary day of Test cricket, in which Sam Curran’s promise, Ben Stokes’ aggression and Jimmy Anderson’s skill were ultimately eclipsed by Virat Kohli’s genius in an innings for the ages. He, helped by England’s flawed catching and inability to prevent the Indian captain farming the strike, was solely responsible for the second day ending with England just 22 in front, nine wickets in hand, ahead in the match, but surely wondering about how much further advanced they would have been, if only…

England added just a couple to their overnight score to be all out 287, Curran edging a widish one from the persevering Mohammed Shami to be out for 24. On a pitch that held few apparent demons under a bright sun, that felt well under par – it was now India’s job to prove that conjecture.

India progressed serenely, if with the odd play-and-miss, to 50 without loss against the old guard of Stuart Broad and Anderson, the crowd settling in for a masterclass of subcontinental batsmanship on a sultry day, when Curran, who had sneaked into the side for his second Test almost under the cover of the furore raging over the selection of Adil Rashid, bustled in and swung the ball as clouds gathered. Joe Root made a fine call to review a delivery that snaked inside Murali Vijay’s bat, KL Rahul went too hard too early and inside edged it on to his stumps and Shikhar Dhawan edged to Dawid Malan at second slip. India had lost three wickets for nine runs and Curran had them all!

The shock still hung in the air when lunch was taken with India 76-3, Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane nudging and nurdling, assessing (correctly) that the booming drives could wait – there’s nothing beats experience, except if your name is Sam, Jimmy or Stuart, I suppose.

After lunch the clouds continued to assemble and so did England’s slips, as the ball curved for Anderson and Ben Stokes. It wasn’t just the batsmen who weren’t reading it, as England failed to call for a review for a Stokes delivery that Hawkeye showed would have hit Rahane’s leg stump. Edges failed to carry to the keeper and slips, standing (as usual) a little too deep. The bowlers were on top, but Kohli and Rahane had plenty of fight – and they needed it. in a compelling contest.

Even as calm and experienced a pro as Rahane couldn’t deal with the pressure hanging out a bat to a widish Stokes delivery, Keaton Jennings taking a sharp catch, shoulder high at fourth slip. Like Dhawan (26) and Vijay (20), Rahane (15) had got in and got out – but credit some fine cricket from England provoking those dismissals.

It was too much for Dinesh Karthik too, who left a gap of, well, white ball dimensions, which Stokes barged through, uprooting middle stump with an explosive yorker, a spectacular 100th Test wicket for a gifted cricketer. With the tension almost palpable, Hardik Pandya played all round a big in-ducker from an on-fire Stokes and reviewed almost in desperation. To widespread disbelief, Hawkeye showed it to be missing leg stump, the swing even greater than it appeared and Pandya had his reprieve.

Kohli was concentrating hard, but Anderson was always going to nick his edge with one of his outswingers and, when he did, Malan dropped it badly in the slips. Incredibly, the very next ball, Stokes induced an edge from Pandya and Alastair Cook dropped as easy a chance as you ever get as first slip. Stokes adrenaline was rocketing, an 89mph delivery the external sign of internal turmoil. What cricket we were witnessing!

Kohli couldn’t buy a run (quite something for a man not short of a rupee or two) but he was still there, working hard and showing the way – captain, leader and (nascent) legend. A worthy opponent is a vital component of a sporting spectacle, something recognised (at least I like to think so) in Root’s mature response to the the “mic drop” send-off on day one. Test cricket is not for brittle men – physically or mentally – and to take offence or to fail to recognise the humour, would show such brittleness.

Pandya will play far worse and score far more than the 22 he managed in this innings, out to Curran who continued to pitch the ball up fearlessly and use the swing that he has always found since breaking into the Surrey side as a callow schoolboy. Kohli soon went to his fifty off 100 balls and was dropped (again) next ball, Malan going wide to his right – a tough but takeable chance. Stokes, bowling as well as he has ever done for his country, was the unlucky bowler, tempting the Indian captain, full and wide of off stump. How England would be made to pay for those lapses.

Tea was taken with India 160-6, the crowd catching their breath after as magnificent a couple of hours of Test cricket – hell, of sport – as you will ever see.

After a hopeless England review against Kohli, Ravichandran Ashwin inexplicably played inside an Anderson delivery that actually seamed in, losing his off bail, gone for 10, Kohli now left with India’s three Number 11s. The Indian captain switched into T20 mode, pinching twos and hitting gaps, the match feeling very different after bowlers had been on top for so long. Anderson, perhaps his understandable grumpiness dissipating, found Shami flashing and, for once, the slips cordon did its job, the fallible Malan clinging on.

With Ishant Sharma at the other end, Kohli pinched singles, hit boundaries and made batting look absurdly easy in very testing conditions. The star quality beamed from the middle into every seat in the ground – what an entertainer the man is!

Root turned to his leg spinner and one ball was enough to shoot through Ishant Sharma’s defence, leaving his captain at the bowler’s end with just Umesh Yadav left to see him through to his hundred. A cut backward of square raised the three figures, a flawed, but utterly brilliant, knock – a genius at work. An innings should not be defined by the fielders’ errors but how the batsman responds to them and Kohli rode his luck did everything for his team and for a crowd who will never forget their privilege of witnessing a master batsman and fierce competitor.

All the while the Kohli storyline was playing out, England’s dominant position was being reduced to a strong one and, eventually, merely useful. Of course, that’s what great players do – they change games. But late order stands annoy fielders, erode confidence and can unsettle the opening batsmen who brood on the task to come.

India’s last two wickets occupied 22 overs and contributed 92 runs, the vast majority of the strike taken by India’s imperious captain. Having barely scored a run in the hour after lunch when England bowled with a ferocious intensity, he cashed in late in the day – the very definition of ignoring the platitude to “play your natural game” in favour of playing the match situation. It’s what great players do. Tired by the end of his stay, Kohli slashed a catch to Broad at gully off Rashid, gone for 149, the next highest score 26. Nobody in the ground would forget it and they rose as one to applaud him every step to the pavilion.

Jennings and Cook, both with plenty to prove, strode to the crease with the lead a barely visible 13, and India’s confidence sky high after an extraordinary momentum shift. There was a grim inevitability about Cook’s dismissal, a Crtl-C, Ctrl-V of his first innings eviscerating by Ashwin, Cook now bowled out in half his last ten innings. Kohli had got yet another call right on a day in which he could do little wrong – and when he did, England dropped him. Boy, did he make them pay.






  1. Cook rather proving my point, I’m afraid.

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