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Spinners build on Kohli magnificence

Wisden India logo Wisden India 11-12-2016
© AP Photo

At the venue where the crowds used to chant his hero’s name from morning to dusk, Virat Kohli’s magnificent 235, and a maiden century for the unflappable Jayant Yadav, saw India take complete control of the fourth Test. Having stretched their first innings from 451 for 7 to 631, India then reduced England to 182 for 6 by stumps on Sunday’s (December 11) day four. Joe Root batted heroically for 77, and Jonny Bairstow was at the crease unbeaten on 50, but with 49 still needed to make India bat again, England needed a miracle of Headingley-Eden Gardens proportions to stay alive in the series.

Kohli, with his name constantly chanted by the Wankhede Stadium faithful the same way that ‘Sa-chin, Sa-chin’ once was, milked the applause at the end of perhaps his finest innings. By then, a game that had been in the balance at tea on the previous day, had swung irrevocably India’s way.

With the spinners having bowled so many overs on the third day, England – who began the day with Jake Ball and Adil Rashid bowling in tandem – lacked any real intensity in the field. India took full toll. Kohli got to 150 by toe-ending one, and Jayant announced himself with a flurry of boundaries off Rashid.

Scores (Day 4): England: 400 & 182-6 against India: 631

He reached his 50 in 103 balls, and the first five overs of the morning cost England 29. When Root, England’s most effective bowler on the third afternoon, was introduced, Kohli clipped him down to fine-leg before smashing a full toss through midwicket to bring up the 500.

Jayant, confidence growing by the minute, twice lofted Moeen Ali down to wide long-on, and unfurled a wonderful square-drive when James Anderson gave him some width. India added 78 from 16 overs in the first hour as England began to look more and more rudderless.

Kohli, who once again used his feet adroitly against the spinners, bisected the deep fielders when Anderson strayed on to the pads, and after a low chance had been kicked up into the air, falling safe, a deflection down to third-man took him to 195.

The double-hundred, his third of the year, duly arrived, from 302 balls. Only Michael Clarke has scored more in a year (2012) and Kohli marked the achievement by clubbing Chris Woakes down to long-on. India went to lunch on 579 for 7, and on resumption, Woakes struck Jayant a nasty blow on the helmet grille.

But Jayant, who only looked ill at ease against the short ball, could not be denied. A dab down to third-man took him to three figures off 196 balls, the first India No. 9 to achieve the feat. To celebrate, he danced down the pitch and lofted Rashid over mid-off.

© AP Photo

After Kohli had thumped Woakes over cover to bring up 600, Jayant fell, stumped off Rashid, bowling into the leg-stump rough. The eighth-wicket partnership by then was an Indian record of 241 (352 balls), 80 better than Mohammad Azharuddin and Anil Kumble had managed in Kolkata in 1996.

Kohli, who had stroked 25 fours, then lofted Woakes over long-on for six, but an attempt to clear the rope at deep cover saw the bat skew in his hands and the ball land in Anderson’s hands. He had faced 340 balls and batted 515 minutes for the highest score made by an Indian captain. Minutes later, India were dismissed for 631, with the exhausted Rashid claiming 4 for 192.

Needing nothing less than victory to stay alive in the series, England got off to the worst possible start as Bhuvneshwar Kumar, bowling round the wicket, pinged Keaton Jennings’s pad while he was rooted to the crease. The batsmen opted not to review, and Jennings walked off with a golden duck to accompany his first-innings hundred.

Root got going with a beautiful cover drive off Bhuvneshwar, and when Ravindra Jadeja was introduced in the eighth over, he stepped out and drove through the offside. At the other end, Alastair Cook was no less positive, glancing Jadeja for four and then clipping him through midwicket.

But on this kind of surface, Jadeja’s pace makes him a potent threat, and Cook had no answer to one that hurried on and struck him in front. Cook reviewed, but to no avail, and England were 43 for 2. Minutes later, with the cups of tea brewing, Moeen glanced one to leg slip, where M Vijay took a fine catch low to his right.

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After the interval, with some deliveries turning several feet, Parthiv Patel behind the stumps was struggling almost as much as the batsmen, with both R Ashwin and Jadeja going for four byes. But Root, who had spoken on the third evening of the need to show intent, carried on undaunted, playing some lovely strokes.

Errors in length from Jadeja were punished with the sweep, and he then reverse-swept Ashwin to reach a half-century in just 75 balls. Bairstow’s attempt to imitate his Yorkshire teammate was nearly disastrous, as the ball went off the glove to the left of slip, where Kohli couldn’t hold on.

Root continued to sweep and drive with elan, and when Jayant was brought on, he paddled him to fine-leg for four. Then India, who had wasted one review on a bat-pad appeal against Root, lost the second when a leg-before appeal was referred. Replays should that the ball would have gone over leg stump.

Bairstow then pulled Jayant for four as 89 came in an action-packed hour after tea. The break, however, suited India, and Jayant had his man when one skidded on to Root’s pads before the bat came down. Root played beautifully for his 112-ball 77, and there was no change in England’s approach as Ben Stokes came in and got to work.

Bairstow was given out twice, with the Decision Review System (DRS) reprieving him on both occasions. When he was on 32, he was given out caught behind, only for the replays to show that Jadeja had overstepped. When he had 37, Ashwin and India claimed a bat-pad catch. Replays showed the bat not even in the same precinct.

Stokes pulled and cut Jayant for four, before launching one over the rope at deep midwicket. But the go-hard-or-go-home approach couldn’t last. An attempt to reverse sweep Ashwin looped up off his boot to Vijay at gully. Ball, who batted so well in the first innings, couldn’t reprise that, edging Ashwin behind in the final over to leave India on the verge of a Test-and-series-clinching victory.

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