It is the end of the 10th over of the Indian innings. Pat Cummins is breathing heavily as he hands his cap to the umpire at the broadcasting end. The Australian pacer is slightly out of breath after attempting to chase down two delightful flicks off Virat Kohli's bat towards the longest part of the boundary. Kohli has motored along to 19 from 12 balls and has hit four boundaries in space of nine balls in what is a supreme counter-attack.
Cummins gallops in and immediately hits a perfect length on the fifth stump line. Kohli with all the adrenaline flowing calmly, raises his bat and watches the ball into the Tim Paine's gloves. It is a start of a long intriguing battle between two competitors striving to wrestle the advantage in their team's favour.
First over is the vintage channel bowling. Some call it defensive — where you wait on patience of the batsmen. The secret is not to strive and wait for the mistake. Six balls, Kohli only plays at one. Cheteshwar Pujara plays out a maiden from the other end and the battle resumes again. The second ball is a well-targeted bouncer on the line of a leg stump. Kohli, for a solitary moment thinks about the hook, as he swivels, but lets the ball pass through to the keeper. The India skipper is aware that scoring opportunities will be rare against Cummins, but at the same time, the subconscious mind is aware of the team's situation. Cummins follows it up with a slightly fuller ball; Kohli lunges forward, the ball kisses the edge, but such is his control over his hands that he can adjust to ensure the ball doesn't carry. It is a win for the bowler, albeit only psychological.
Kohli, though, is unfazed. He loves such contests and prides himself on getting through them both mentally and technically. Cummins continues to probe him in the channel. The ball cannot be driven, punched, cut or pulled even by the Indian batting superstar, such is the immaculate line and length of Cummins. The New South Welshman finally fires a yorker in the 16th delivery to Kohli. The India skipper, who had been so content to shift towards his off-stump, is just about to move his left foot across, but pauses and ensures his weight, is still going towards the ball and not across.
Cummins has a wry smile. Kohli just walks away.
The next delivery is back in the channel. The ever-alert Kohli pushes it into covers and scores his first run against Cummins after 16 balls. In Adelaide, he had gone 22 balls without scoring against the 25-year-old.
The drought is broken, but Cummins continues to build pressure. In his fourth over, he tangles the carrot slightly wider and beats Kohli twice in space of six balls. But like all great batsman of the past, Kohli is only focusing on the future instead of looking behind. By sheer determination and will, Kohli sees off Cummins' first spell that reads 6-2-6-0.
By the time Cummins returns for his second spell, Kohli has moved to 40, having stroked the previous delivery from Mitchell Starc by reaching outside the off-stump. Like all good fast bowlers, Cummins has the ball stored in his memory, so he repeats the delivery. The Delhiite's eyes light up at the outswinger wide outside off, he is dragged into a drive on the up and it shapes past the edge. The right-arm pacer misses out on the prized scalp by a whisker.
Bowling his 10th over, Cummins plans a change of strategy. After trying to kiss the outside edge, he pulls his length back slightly and tries to dart the ball back in to the Indian skipper from wide of the crease. The first ball nearly gets the reward, as Kohli inside edges one on to the thigh pad, but there is no short leg in place. In the commentary box, Mark Waugh says "if he is going to bowl that line they need a man under the lid to stop Kohli from lunging". Four balls later, it happens again, but the result is the same. Cummins throws his head back in frustration. Kohli just practices his shot again.
For the next couple of overs Cummins is drawn into the short-ball strategy to Ajinkya Rahane, so the next time he confronts Kohli, he hurls down a bouncer. The arrival of Rahane has changed Kohli's mindset, he sees the short ball and upper-cuts it over third man to bring up his fifty. It is the first boundary Kohli has hit off Cummins in 47 balls. It is the last ball the Australian pacer will bowl to Kohli for an hour.
But with stumps around the corner, there is still one final battle between the two. Cummins however, has already spent nearly three hours in the field, so the concentration is wavering and the pace is dropping. After just three balls, the pacer strays on Kohli's pads, something he has rarely done for the duration of the day. Kohli calmly adds another run to his tally. Next over, he overpitches, and Kohli executes a perfect cover drive. It is a sign of his authority.
Kohli might not have dominated, but at stumps, he had won an absorbing contest. Those that are mentally fragile and technically incompetent would succumb to the class of Cummins, but Kohli is just a different kettle of fish.
Round two will start again on Sunday.
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