NOTTINGHAM: Virat Kohli was frustrated to be dismissed three runs short of his century but another fine captain’s knock inspired India on their best batting day of the series in the third test against England at Trent Bridge on Saturday.
Kohli looked poised to mark the first test for 63 years in England to start on a Saturday with a serene ton until Adil Rashid’s spin beat him, but India’s champion batsman did most to guide them to 307-6 by close on a fascinating first day.
With England 2-0 ahead in the five-match series, Joe Root decided to launch another assault on India’s brittle top order after winning the toss and Chris Woakes obliged with three wickets in the morning session to reduce the tourists to 82-3.
Yet Kohli, who has shone amid his side’s batting ruins, once again dug deep and, ably assisted by Ajinkya Rahane in a superb 159-run fourth-wicket partnership, led his side out of another perilous situation.
The pair batted throughout the afternoon session when the ball stopped jagging around, compiling by far India’s best partnership of the series until Rahane was snapped up after tea for 81 by Stuart Broad, courtesy of Alastair Cook’s dazzling left-handed slip catch.
Kohli, having compiled his 18th test fifty, carried on confidently and looked set for his 23rd test hundred, and second of the series, until tempted to drive at a rare Rashid turner which Ben Stokes gobbled up at slip.
It was Stokes’s major contribution on his return to the side four days after being cleared of affray. He had been given a ripple of applause as he came on to bowl in the morning but, not at his best, delivered 15 wicketless overs for 54 runs.
Instead it was England’s less heralded all-rounder Woakes, centurion and man of the match in the second test win at Lord’s, who took centre stage.
Shikhar Dhawan, restored to the side in place of Murali Vijay, and Lokesh Rahul had started well enough with India’s highest partnership of the series — 60 — until the Kohli-Rahane link-up as England’s pacemen failed to make a breakthrough.
Woakes looked the potential game-changer again, having Dhawan caught at slip for 35, trapping Rahul lbw for 23 and tempting Cheteshwar Pujara (14) into a hook on the stroke of lunch which went straight into the hands of Rashid on the boundary.
Kohli was doubtless unimpressed as he faced the prospect of having to bail out a sinking ship again but he found an assured partner in 30-year-old Rahane.
After Kohli’s 152-ball stay, 20-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant made an assured unbeaten 22 on debut alongside Hardik Pandya, who became James Anderson’s 100th Indian test victim to leave the match delicately poised.