Birmingham: Virat Kohli was treated with a loud chorus of boos when he took the field on day two at Edgbaston. With his mic-drop celebration taking a dig at England skipper Joe Root in the first innings, there was no way the local crowd was going to let him escape like that. But when he finished talking with the bat, the same audience would stand up and applaud a knock that was not all glitter and gold.
Catches win matches they say as the Team India skipper rubbed salt to England wounds after they dropped him on 21 and 51 on his way to 149 - his 22nd Test ton – the first on English soil to put the ghosts of 2014 to rest.
So good was the reply from the 29-year-old, that one knock would go past the overall runs scored from his 10 previous innings during India's five-match Test tour in 2014.
He hogged the limelight from all the effort the English pacers had put in. 20-year-old Sam Curran ripped apart the Indian top order and would go on to get the better of Hardik Pandya. His 2014 nemesis James Anderson would not let him breathe, hitting the right patches and bowling around the fourth stump while Ben Stokes was doing more than the ‘fifth bowler’ tag with his sharp inswingers, removing the likes of Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik.
But Kohli stayed firm in his revolve as time passed by and would go on to produce something that would give the visitors a huge sigh of relief. Leading from the front, he saved the blushes in a tremendous display of grit and temperament.
With all the pre-series hype on how Kohli would perform in England, he took his game to another level when it mattered the most. It wasn’t the most quintessential knock you would expect from him.
He swallowed his ego and played with a cautious approach outside the off stump, having done his homework. He toiled hard, he left some swinging deliveries, he edged some, he was put down, got hit on the pads but stood up to the task. It was an innings of attrition and perseverance that signalled his intent to stay out in the middle.
Partners kept coming and going at the other end but it did not affect his rhythm. The ball was still swinging in the air and he learnt to leave out good ones despite being well set. After England put an end to Pandya and Kohli’s 48-run partnership – the highest of the innings so far – England decided to have a go at the tail-enders. While these were worrying signs for India, in one way, it eased the burden off Kohli who was back to his natural game.
The flamboyant right-hander flexed his muscles later on after, toying with the opposition as he smacked 22 fours and a six in his 225-ball knock. He even outfoxed Joe Root in his on-field settings.
When the fielders were inside, he targeted the long boundaries and when his rival captained tinkered here and there, he kept rotating the strike. Kohli took charge and added 92 runs for the last two wickets. For the final stand with number 11 Umesh Yadav, he brought up the first half-century partnership. Such was his supremacy, that the next highest scorer was Shikhar Dhawan with a modest 26.
What Kohli has done is brought India back to the game when all hope was lost, rescuing them from the skin of their teeth. It was an innings of grit and character which will not be forgotten anytime soon. It’s now up to the other ten members to follow the example set by their leader.