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Kohli dominates after Vijay-Pujara set the tone

Wisden India logo Wisden India 09-02-2017
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A classy century from M Vijay and his 178-run association with Cheteshwar Pujara first, and then an exceptional unbeaten 111 in 141 balls from Virat Kohli made Day 1 of the one-off Test between India and Bangladesh in Hyderabad on Thursday (February 9) all about the home team.

Having won the toss and opted to bat on a hard Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium pitch, which those in the know say should start assisting spinners in a big way only after the halfway stage, India survived a couple of close calls and then lost some wickets against the run of play before taking control again courtesy Kohli to end on 356 for 3.

That inflated total was possible because of the captain, as Kohli walked in at the end of a long partnership for the second wicket and took the game by the scruff of its neck in the way only he can. He middled almost everything thrown his way, and mixed delicate dabs and flicks with powerful cuts that seemed to gather speed as the fielders tried to cut them off.

Full scorecard: India vs England, one-off Test

Though Kohli came in only in the 51st over, with less than 40 left in the day, in no time he was past his 50. From there to the century, and beyond, was a lot of brilliant strokeplay and excellent running, especially once he got Ajinkya Rahane as his partner. He was back in the XI after an injury layoff in place of Karun Nair, who scored an unbeaten triple century in India’s last Test against England but had to make way.

Kohli was all class and authority, with, possibly, the idea of bat-once-but-bat-big at the back of his mind. Picking up wickets on the first day wasn’t easy, and it might not be too different at least for the next two days. Given that, Kohli’s dominant display – he hit 12 fours – was exactly what India needed on the day and what Bangladesh would happily have done without. His century came up off 130 balls – the second in 60 balls –and he looks good for quite a few more.

The stand between Kohli and Rahane, unbeaten on 45 in 60 balls, was worth 122 runs by close of play, scored in just 105 minutes. India added 150 runs in 32 overs in the third session, with the concept of downing the shutters non-existent, as six runs – including a four from Kohli – were scored even in the final over of the day.

Photos: 'Unique' world records held by Indian cricketers

Indian cricketers and their 'Unique' world records

Rahane was impressive enough on his international comeback too. With the joke being that he has to score over 303 to keep his place in the side, the Mumbai man bedded down for the long haul before unfurling some solid strokes – a drive on the up for four off Kamrul Islam Rabbi the pick of the lot.

The largest chunk of the day, however, was about the old firm of Vijay and Pujara.

The last time Vijay and Pujara had batted together at the venue, they had put together 370 runs against Australia back in March 2013. Vijay had scored 167 then, and Pujara 204. On this occasion, after KL Rahul played a lazy drive to edge Taskin Ahmed on to his stumps off the fourth ball of the game, the combine blunted the new ball but could have been separated for as little as 23 when Pujara edged Rabbi just short, to the left of first slip. Mushfiqur Rahim was better placed to go for the chance but didn’t even move.

If that was 50-50, the stand should have been ended by Bangladesh at 67. Vijay stood still at his end after flicking Mehedi Hasan, Rabbi did well to stop the ball at square leg and with Pujara having hared off to get to Vijay’s end, the striker had to run. Rabbi’s throw to Mehedi wasn’t the best, but the bowler’s attempt at collecting it on the half-volley was even worse, and Vijay lived to fight another day.

Outside of those lapses and a couple of straightish deliveries from Mehedi that found the edge of both batsmen’s bats when they played for turn that wasn’t there, the two did exactly what one has come to expect of them. Patience in buckets, and some pleasing shots when the opportunity came calling. Pujara was particularly good on the drive down the ground and the leg side, while Vijay pulled Rabbi for four twice in an over – the pacer’s sixth – as he was kept on for an eight-over opening spell and had started to bang it in short without much logic. One all grace and elegance and the other full of workmanlike endeavour, Vijay and Pujara lifted the innings and took it away from Bangladesh bit by bit.



India ended the first session on 86 for 1, but after the break, Vijay and Pujara – both of who had two centuries apiece in the recent series against England – upped the scoring rate. Vijay got to his half-century off 82 balls by sending Shakib Al Hasan through the covers, as India brought up their 100. 

With one or the other finding the fence often enough to keep the run rate at three-and-a-half for the best part, and a straight Vijay six off Shakib at one stage, the excitement level among the weekday crowd of 10,000-odd was kept going for the most part.

More landmarks followed. Pujara first got to his half-century in 108 balls, and soon after, crossed Chandu Borde’s mark of 1604 from 1964-65 to become the highest run-getter in an Indian first-class season. It was a significant achievement, and one that Pujara looks set to stretch by at fair bit before the season comes to a close. Earlier, when they had added 100 runs for the second wicket, it was also the fifth hundred-plus stand between the two this Indian season, topping the old record of four set by Vijay Hazare and Rusi Modi back in 1948-49.

Pujara fell quite against the run of play when he again played for turn off Mehedi and edged on. Rahim was frozen solid again when the ball hit his thigh but was alert enough to watch it into his gloves on the dive to finally give Bangladesh the breakthrough. Pujara had scored 83 from 177 balls in almost three-and-a-half hours at the crease, his dismissal coming 155 runs after the chance he had offered had gone begging early on.

After Pujara walked off to a massive roar – that’s become the norm for the fall of the second Indian wicket these days – Kohli walked in and kept the tempo up, cutting Mehedi for four first ball, then finding the fence with some regularity even after that. Ominously for Bangladesh, he looked completely untroubled and looked to dominate.

Pujara missed a century that was there for the taking, but Vijay wasn’t going to, not on the day. He took his time, as he is wont to, and got there when he guided a short delivery from Rabbi between point and cover off the 149th ball he faced.

But his ninth wasn’t going to be a big one, as Vijay also fell to an innocuous-looking delivery, attempting a sweep to one that was pitched up and playing all around it to lose middle stump. Not a shot he would look back with any fondness, but it was an excellent knock while it lasted, giving India the upper hand they would have hoped for when they opted to take first strike. Vijay scored 108, his innings studded by 12 fours and a six.

And the advantage Vijay and Pujara had worked so hard to gain, well, Kohli just got hold of it, folded it up, put it in his pocket and walked away.

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