India vs England, 3rd Test: Virat Kohli’s legend cemented as India set England 521 to win
Virat Kohli's 103 on day three at Trent Bridge saw him cross 400 runs in the series. @Getty

Virat Kohli’s 103 off 197 deliveries, his fourth-slowest century in an overall tally of 23 from 118 innings, was the bedrock on which India marched to 352/7 declared on day three at Trent Bridge, and with it a lead of 520.

Having strode to the crease on the second afternoon, Kohli batted through the first and second sessions on Monday, adding 113 in 50 overs with Cheteshwar Pujara and taking India’s lead to the doorstep of 450 before he was fourth out. This was an unreal exhibition of batting from the batsman who four years ago averaged 13.40 in ten Test innings against England, and has put, with Pujara’s cussed 72 and Hardik Pandya’s run-a-ball 52 not out, India on course to obliterate England.

In the nine overs they had to bat before stumps, Alastair Cook and Keaton Jennings took England to 23 without loss.

Kohli was in no hurry to declare on day three at Trent Bridge, as he rightfully could be with two days left in the Test and a good forecast for Tuesday. The pitch has shown ample signs of uneven bounce across the third day’s play, and in batting out over two sessions while riding his luck, India’s captain made a huge statement.

To better understand the method which with Kohli and Pujara batted, let us go back to the start. In the session in which England needed to run through India to prevent their target reaching gigantic proportions, they were left wicketless. The sky was the clearest it had been in three mornings, the pitch started to agitate and this meant that neither Kohli or Pujara was able to dominate, but that would not have been a concern because it kept England in the field for two hours.

Cheteshwar Pujara Trent Bridge
Cheteshwar Pujara got to his first Test half-century in six innings. @Getty

With inconsistent bounce starting to appear early in the session, the situation was not one in which India’s batsmen could dominate. Kohli and Pujara struggled for fluency, with 23 runs coming from the first hour during which the bowling was rhythmic and constrictive. In the second over, Kohli clipped Chris Woakes for a boundary, but when he tried it again a leading edge flew wide of gully for four. Woakes followed by beating the bat, then had the batsman jamming his bat down on one that kept low.

James Anderson should have earned a wicket in a fine spell of 10-4-10-0 when on 40, Pujara edged to Joe Buttler at second slip who made a mess of the catch. Off the final ball of Anderson’s spell, a sharply moving delivery stayed low and struck Jonny Bairstow on his left hand to force him off the field. The ECB tweeted soon after that Bairstow had been sent to a local hospital for an x-ray on his left middle finger, which in due course revealed a fracture.

Around the time that Pujara and Kohli reached their fifties, England complained about the condition of the ball, which compelled the umpires to inspect it. It was deemed to be fine, which added to the image of England being utterly frustrated by India’s second wicketless session of the Test.

Getting dropped on 40 by Jos Buttler at second slip was a big slice of luck for Pujara, and he used it to add 32 runs to his score. He was not as fluent as he had been on Sunday evening, and as England’s fast men probed away on an inconsistent surface, Pujara got bogged down. The drives and clips dried up, the uneasiness outside off stump resurfaced. But he rode the awkward bounce to bat out time, and despite the outer and inside edges Pujara was able to make an impact.

The introduction of spin opened up a few eye-catching strokes, and with it visions of India batting unscathed into the tea interval, but on 72 Pujara feathered an edge off Ben Stokes to first slip. The bowler deserved that wicket for how well he did all day, never lagging in energy and getting the ball to wobble off the seam. If Stokes, like all of England’s fast bowlers today, was guilty of anything it was not using the short ball often.

Kohli, equally, was not his elegant self but like Pujara, that adhesiveness kept England frustrated. This wasn’t a track on which he could plant that front foot forward and drive, and with Stokes and Stuart Broad cannily pitching the ball in awkward spots, Kohli had to be wary. The edginess crept in on occasion, such as when he flashed his bat at Adil Rashid as the rain grew heavier with India’s lead just past 400.

The new ball brought about a few more testing moments, with Kohli inside-edging onto his pads and Broad rapping Ajinkya Rahane on the gloves. Kohli spent 31 balls in the eighties before an authoritative whip off Anderson for four took him to 93, and needed 15 deliveries to get from there to his century.

James Anderson Trent Bridge
It was not James Anderson’s day, with dropped catches adding to the fast bowler’s misery. @Getty

On 94, Kohli edged James Anderson straight through Jennings at fly slip for four. Next delivery, he edged tantalisingly short of Cook at first slip. The look on Anderson’s face was of a man who’s just spent his last few dollars on his favourite ice cream sundae, only for a flock of pigeons to defecate on it.

That dogged innings ended on 103 when Kohli played around his front pad to a delivery from Woakes that angled in. Kohli could afford to review given India’s monumental position in the Test, and replays showed the ball hitting leg stumps. Off went Kohli, raising his arms to a standing ovation, his place in the all-time list of greats confirmed on this tour of England. With 440 runs in three Tests, Kohli has become the sixth Indian to score 400 in a series in England, and with four innings to go there is every reason to believe he will break Rahul Dravid’s record of 602.

The arrival of Rishabh Pant, with India’s lead 450, brought with it the promise of something dramatic but the debutant last just four balls before he tentatively pushed at Anderson and edged to first slip. Enter Pandya, who thwacked two fours either side of the pitch and then creamed Stokes over extra cover. This perked up Rahane, who until Pandya entered had scored 18 from 61 deliveries without a boundary, before an attempt to manufacture runs off Rashid had him bowled. A six and a four downtown off Rashid had Pandya racing to a run-a-ball fifty, and the declaration came soon after.