Virat Kohli’s masterful century and the late removal of Alastair Cook via another peach of a ball from Ravi Ashwin mean this compelling first Test between England and India goes into its third day pregnant with possibilities.
The Indian captain’s 149 from 225 balls – his first Test hundred on English soil – was an exhibition in marshalling the tail and frustrating the opposition, steering his side from a perilous 100 for five to 274 all out, a mere 13-run deficit for the tourists.
England will be kicking themselves after dropping Kohli twice, once on 21 and again on 51.
Sam Curran, the 20-year-old left-arm swing bowler, claimed four for 74 to go with two wickets apiece from the impressive Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid and Jimmy Anderson. But with Cook’s stumps disturbed by Ashwin for the second time in this match England will resume on nine for one, leading by 22 and with significant work to do.
“Credit to a great innings,” said Curran. “That’s what Test cricket is about, I’m only in my second game but it was an eye-opener. It wasn’t ideal losing Cookie at the end – that ball will get most players out – but we bowled them out below our total and it’s going to be a great Test match. We have to bat big and put India under pressure.”
On his own performance, which included three wickets in eight balls to make the morning England’s, Curran said: “Personally it was pretty special. I can’t really remember it. It’s a pretty cool feeling for me to be playing with my heroes – Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad – and, running into bowl to a guy like Kohli. It’s a great learning curve.”
Kohli’s expertise in shepherding the lower order included a maddening final-wicket stand of 57 with Umesh Yadav – the No 11 contributed one run – and allowed the India captain to bring up three figures; the landmark was celebrated by kissing his wedding ring and pointing up to his wife, the Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma, in the pavilion.
Sanjay Bangar, India’s assistant coach, said: “That innings of Virat has narrowed the gap massively. At one stage we were staring down the barrel, and the gap was huge, but because of his brilliance – and the commitment shown by the tail – it’s still even stevens for both sides.”
Kohli’s two chances were put down by Dawid Malan at second slip. The first came during a titanic battle with Anderson that lived up to the pre-series billing when a simple take went to ground, while the trickier second that had Malan diving to his right denied Stokes the prize scalp. Thus for the second day running England saw two promising sessions somewhat scuppered by the third; Kohli lit up the opening day with his run-out of Joe Root on 80 that was followed by a mocking “mic drop” celebration.
Speaking to Sky about the incident, which aped his own such gesture during the one-dayers, the England captain said: “I actually think it adds to the whole spectacle of Test cricket; it gives a bit of humour to it. It makes for a very entertaining series, so we’ll see how things pan out over the course of the five Test matches.”
England confirmed Jos Buttler suffered no significant damage to his left middle finger when fielding a ball low down at gully during the morning of day two. The new Test vice-captain was sent to hospital for an X-ray but returned to the field after tea.