India vs England, 1st Test: Battle Royale – Virat Kohli wins round one over James Anderson

Birmingham: Desperation – it is an apt word to describe the first two days at Edgbaston. Through day one, India  were desperate not to let the opposition get away and they kept plugging. Through day two, England were the desperate ones, to not let their guests home in that advantage gained prior.

SCORECARD | DAY 2 REPORT

Test cricket is beautiful because desperation of two battling outfits encapsulates individual struggles. Of R Ashwin trying to prove his worth, of Mohammed Shami trying to regain his life, of Joe Root trying to reach three figures, of Dawid Malan  trying to hold a catch, of James Anderson trying to get his prime target, and, of Virat Kohli trying to prove a point.

And so, did you really believe when Kohli said ‘it didn’t matter if he scored runs’?

On day two of this first Test, of this mega series, it did matter. When the second-highest score is a mere 26 runs, it matters. When Anderson bowls 10 overs in a session, then five more after a short break, and then another seven afterwards, yet finishes on his hunches in disappointment, it matters. When Kohli bats out three dropped catches, and scores 91 runs in the company of Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, it matters.

Photo Gallery: Kohli dominates thrilling day two 

Let it be said here that Indian batsmen cannot play swing worth a nickel, not on current evidence. Let it also be said that the skipper’s merry-go-round selection is at blame for some portion of this messy batting line-up. But questioning captain Kohli is a debate left for another day. This day, August 2, was all about the star batsman of this Indian team, unarguably the best in world cricket at present.

READ: Kohli’s first Test century in England 

He didn’t appear so when dropped on 0 or 21. Squared up by Anderson, and dropped by Jos Buttler and Malan, Kohli looked ugly at the crease. It was a tumultuous passage of play – Anderson had bowled fuller for the first hour of India’s batting, while Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay cut and drove at will. Just as Kohli arrived at the crease, it was like an automatic switch was flicked on in Anderson’s head.

The length was pulled back. There was cloud cover, almost as if he had willed it. There was movement, off length, outside off, and we were transported back to 2014. Two edges, dropped. Then, it was Kohli’s turn to flick a switch of his own, and just like that, we were back, traveling through space-time continuum, to 2018.

Kohli rules, here and now.

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World cricket today is his dominion, and Anderson is a mere bystander. As was the Birmingham crowd, particularly after lunch. “Virat is flexible about his batting approach. Most of the batsmen are not so flexible about their technique or approach, but Virat is different in that respect,” said assistant coach Sanjay Bangar after the day’s play.

Does that explain why he is a champion batsman?

If not, then sample this. After the lunch break, Kohli played with softer hands against Anderson. There were a few more edges – three to the point of recollection – but all fell short of the slip cordon. When Anderson huffed away, the batsmen opened up. Only one other troubled him – Ben Stokes, with change in delivery technique as Michael Holding so eloquently described on Sky Cricket. There was no shame in nicking off Stokes, but then you cannot blame Kohli for England not holding their catches.

From there on, it was a master class, pure and simple. If countering and surviving against Anderson was personal, this was desperation of a higher nature, wherein the team came first and not the individual batsman. Since Ashwin’s dismissal, it wasn’t about how many Kohli could score or how long he could last. Instead, it was about how he could prolong the Indian innings.

It could be seen in how he changed gears to run harder as soon as Shami arrived at the crease. It could be seen in how he asked Ishant to go for two DRS reviews. It could be seen in how he used wristwork to open up the leg-side field against Sam Curran’s left-arm attack. It could be seen in how he attacked Adil Rashid.

It could be seen in the manner he refused singles on 97 not out, and most of all, it could be seen in how he exulted after this most-desired hundred came up on the scoreboard.

“I have nothing to prove in any country,” Kohli had said in the build-up to this Test.

Indeed!