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kohli: Virat Kohli is back in business


“Three hours and 21 minutes” or some figure to that effect would be a classic Vijay Amritraj line when describing a match point at Wimbledon. Irrespective of the players, the situation or the occasion, Amritraj would bring it down to the time the two players had been on court.

Similarly, it’s been 24 matches, 42 innings, 1205 days, and 2633 balls for Virat Kohli to move from his 27th to 28th Test century. Against Bangladesh, in Kolkata, in 2019, Kohli last reached three figures in a Test match.

When he did so in Ahmedabad, taking India to a strong position in the final Test against Australia, Kohli did not leap into the air and flail his bat, expletives in tow. Rather, he quietly and calmly acknowledged the moment, removing his helmet, raising his bat, and fishing into his jersey to give his wedding ring, hanging on a chain, the gentlest of kisses.

To be fair, this was one of Kohli’s more sedate hundreds. He had scored just five boundaries when he reached his century and had not hit one ball in the air. On the fourth day of the Test, India were not best positioned, still well behind Australia’s first-innings 480. The news that Shreyas Iyer had to go away for scans to check on a recurring lower-back problem, did not help in any way.

But, Kohli was bossing this Test match. On a pitch where the bounce was largely true and the turn quite even off the pitch, you needed something special to dislodge Kohli.

The cornerstone of his innings was the whip. You did not quite hear the crack of an actual whip breaking the sound barrier, but the manner in which he stayed still in his crease, or moved ever so slightly to his right and took the ball from outside off stump and channelled it through midwicket was a thing of beauty.

For a Test that has moved slowly, in traditional Indian fashion, Kohli played his role to perfection. His end was sealed shut, and he built partnerships with every batsman who came. Ravindra Jadeja, compact on the third evening, was like a cat on a hot tin roof. Defending clumsily enough to bring the LBW into play, he charged the bowler, twice narrowly missing the mid-on fielder before holing out.When KS Bharat went for 44, undone by a beauty from the tireless Nathan Lyon, India were still 87 behind. Then came the batsman of the series for India, Axar Patel.

Once India reached par, Axar launched, taking on the left-arm spin of Matt Kuhnemann, hitting him crisply into the stands over midwicket, using the angle and the turn to his advantage. When a maiden Test century looked ripe for the picking, Axar fell on 79.

With the tail for company, Kohli took his chances. Again, just as his dour play for the best part of his innings had been to the team’s interest rather than his own, his attack came when it was needed. In the process, Kohli was the last man out, for a 364-ball 186, when there was a double-century for the taking.

Kohli was not just sublime with the bat, he read the match situation and played it to perfection, and was unselfish in the end.

With a lead of 91, a wicket or two in the dying light would have left India right on top. Even with that not happening, a fascinating final day beckons, with only one team in with a chance of winning

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