Record breaking Virat Kohli and Murali Vijay tons put India on top

The Wankhede Stadium filled up over 19000 seats on Saturday (December 10) with a singular hope of watching India’s latest superstar, Virat Kohli, perform in the skin. A good majority of them had to rush to their seats as the India required their captain’s services as early as the third ball of the day’s play. Seven hours and 241 balls and later, Kohli walked back to the dressing room to a raucous ovation and handshakes from the game’s other participants, having accumulated 147 of the classiest runs as India emphatically marched into control of the fourth Test with a 51-run lead.

Kohli received able support from Murali Vijay, who dispelled any concerns about his form and technique, with a typically eye-catching 136. After the early loss of Cheteshwar Pujara, the duo led an admirable counter-attack that helped the hosts offset a middle-order wobble and still move into the ascendancy.

On a day in which Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali combined to bowl 61 overs on a spin-conducive pitch, it was the seamer Jake Ball, who set India back early. Pujara shouldered arms to a Jake Ball inswinger and was out bowled – for the 17th time in his relatively short Test career.

After ducking under England’s attempts to bounce him out, Kohli peppered the vacant third-man region with a succession of fours. Moeen, bowling from the other end, was launched over head for a six by Vijay and just like that India had seamlessly shifted the pressure back on England with the pair adding 43 in the first 11 overs of play. Ben Stokes came on to replace Ball when fielders slowly moved past the inner circles into more boundary-rope hugging positions. That opened up the field for Kohli and Vijay to pinch singles on either side of the wicket, which they did with great efficacy to keep the partnership going.

The duo added 101 in the opening session with Vijay completing his eighth Test century. But like in any riveting contest, the tide turned in the post-lunch session as realisation dawned upon the spinners that the Wankhede pitch was an ally. But like at Mohali, India’s slide started with an innocuous Rashid delivery that Vijay drilled straight back at the bowler. England then denied Kohli the boundaries as they got to work with an inexperienced middle-order with their spin attack. After Moeen trapped Karun Nair (13) in front of his stumps, Joe Root fancied a bowl and instantly reaped rewards in the form of Parthiv Patel (15) and Ravichandran Ashwin (0). In just over an hour, India went from 262 for 2 to 307 for 6, still trailing England by 93.

Just when the first innings lead seemed a distant possibility, the arrival of Ravindra Jadeja turned the tide once more. Fatigue got to Rashid as he offered a slew of short-pitched deliveries, allowing both Kohli and Jadeja the freedom to pick up boundaries. In a small period of play before Tea, the deficit had been reduced to 52.

Jadeja fell after Tea for an entertaining 25 with India still some distance away from achieving first innings parity. But Jayant Yadav brought much-needed calm after the Jadeja storm and that was enough for Kohli to move on to his 15th Test century and then orchestrate a final session milking of the England attack. Cook delayed the use of the second new ball until midway through the 130th over but given his team’s abject fielding – Vijay survived a stumping chance on 45, Kohli was dropped by Rashid on 68 and Jayant off the third delivery with the second new ball – England had little hopes of denying India.

Jayant meandered along to 30 in an 87-run stand with Kohli as the Indian captain, having played the situation all along, allowed himself the luxury of some showboating. He did however ensure he hung around until the end to make England dread the prospect of the final two days on a wicket that should entice Ashwin & Co.

Brief scores: England 400 (Keaton Jennings 112, Jos Buttler 76; Ravichandran Ashwin 6-112, Ravindra Jadeja 4-109) trail India 451/7 (Virat Kohli 147*, Murali Vijay 136; Joe Root 2-18, Moeen Ali 2-139) by 51 runs.

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