India vs England, 2nd Test: Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara tick all the boxes to put hosts in pole position
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara scored 151 not out and 119 respectively, as India reached 317/4 at the end of Day 1 of the 2nd Test at Vizag.
A day's play would not seem to have been very exciting when the most discussed topic is that of a dog invading the pitch.
Virat Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara ensured that there were no heart-stopping moments for India, and given the consistency with which they have been gathering runs in the recent past, it was hardly a surprise for either the fans or analysts.
The Indian Test skipper produced yet another gem of an innings, and will anchor the batting on the second day. Pujara, on the other hand, has extended a golden run that has now made him a vital cog in India's current scheme of things.
On a day when England made early inroads, and seemed to have negated India's advantage of winning the toss and electing to bat first, Kohli and Pujara exhibited tremendous responsibility in building a partnership that would not only help the hosts recover, but put them in firm control of things by stumps on Day 1.
Comeback man James Anderson replaced the in-form Chris Woakes, in a bold move by the English team management, while there were two changes for India from Rajkot. KL Rahul, was drafted in place of Gautam Gambhir after getting himself match-ready, and Jayant Yadav, who had made his ODI debut in the series decider against New Zealand at the same venue, was brought in place of Amit Mishra.
Anderson struck early along with long-time new-ball partner Stuart Broad, and England suddenly had both the Indian openers back in the pavilion.
The fact that Rahul has been one of the most prolific batsmen, especially at the top of the order, for India might earn him some redemption for defending along the wrong line off a Broad delivery, and falling for a duck as a result. Kohli had earlier asserted, though, that the Karnataka batsman was picked as a first-choice opener, which should pretty much bring the curtains down on Gambhir's international career.
Murali Vijay, who slammed a century and built a solid stand with Pujara in the first innings at Rajkot, fell to an Anderson bouncer after executing a couple of luscious drives. What could have been another fine innings was cut short by a clever change of line by the veteran English pacer. At 22/2, the hosts seemed to have handed the advantage over to the opposition at the start of the innings.
Kohli's rescue work with Pujara did not exactly go smoothly in its initial stages. While the duo were batting patiently in the beginning, with the intent of opening themselves up after settling at the crease, Pujara nearly brought a premature end to the third-wicket stand with some atrocious running between the wickets. In what initially appeared to be a breakdown in communication between the two, Pujara found himself saving his wicket by a whisker, dropping his bat completely and running towards the striker's end a la Allan Donald circa 1999.
However, the duo had a chat during the lunch interval, and it was a comfortable ride for the most part thereafter.
"There was a bit of difficulty in the first session (in terms of running between the wickets) following which we decided we would be more clear with our communication," Pujara was quoted as saying after the end of the day's play.
Every loose ball was whacked towards the fence, with Pujara playing the role of the aggressor (perhaps he took Kohli's advice on his strike rate too seriously). The English spinners, who looked formidable as a unit at Rajkot, were rendered ineffective as both Kohli and Pujara countered their strategies with patience and immense skill. With the pitch not expected to produce much turn until Day 3, the two made full use of the batting-friendly conditions to build the foundation for a massive score.
"The Day 1 wicket wasn't of much help for the spinners, so we wanted to dominate them. Whatever loose balls we got would be dispatched to the boundary," added Pujara.
Kohli though, was not without his share of luck in his 50th Test appearance. Batting on 56, he edged a short ball from Ben Stokes towards fine-leg, where Adil Rashid put down the chance after grabbing hold of the ball. Rashid seemed to have made up for the hosts, who themselves dropped a number of chances in the first Test. Should Kohli go on to score something along the lines of a double-century in the coming days, the wound of the dropped chance will only take longer to heal.
Much like their first innings at Rajkot, India lost a couple of wickets — including that of Pujara — in the final session to give the visitors some sense of belief. Pujara fell in a manner similar to his dismissal two innings' ago — poking at a back-of-length Anderson delivery pitched outside off to nick it to the keeper — walking back to the pavilion for 119.
Anderson, England's leading all-time Test wicket-taker, ended his first day in office after a gap on a good note, removing Ajinkya Rahane with the new ball in the second-last over of the day. Rahane, who has been struggling for form since the start of the limited-overs fixtures against New Zealand, further lowered his confidence by producing an uninspiring 23 off 61 balls.
If the hosts are to cross the 500-run mark and exert scoreboard pressure on Alastair Cook and Co in the days to come, Kohli's continued persistence at the crease is something that they will look forward to. There is a plenty of batting left for the hosts, with Ravichandran Ashwin, Wriddhiman Saha having produced valuable knocks in India's recent Tests.
Complacency is all that they need to avoid after having done all the good work on the opening day.
The 21-year-old from Jammu has got everyone excited with his raw pace and clocked 152.95 kph during the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore here on Wednesday. Kohli was paying attention and was quite excited by what he saw.
Harshal stressed that Kohli, who has decided to step down as India T20 captain after the upcoming World Cup and RCB skipper post the ongoing IPL, remains a "leader".
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