Virat Kohli scored his maiden Test hundred in England and 22nd of his career as he single-handedly led India’s response to the hosts’ first innings 287 all out in the first Test at Edgbaston on Thursday.
This was Kohli’s fourth hundred against England in Test cricket – the previous three had been scored in India. Kohli also became only the second Indian to score a hundred in his first Test innings as captain in England. Mohammad Azharuddin (121) had done it first back in 1991.
Incidentally, Kohli had scored twin hundreds in his debut Test (against Australia at the Adelaide Oval) in 2014.
Kohli’s hundred at Edgbaston came in dramatic circumstances. Ishant Sharma became the 9th Indian wicket to fal with Kohli on 97. He was then on strike to Ben Stokes and there was a loud appeal for a catch behind the wickets when he was on 97. However, only Jonny Bairstow seemed interested while Stokes did not even go up in appeal.
In the fifth ball of the over, Kohli hit a boundary to bring up his maiden Test hundred in England and took his wedding run out and kissed it, dedicating the hundred to wife Anushka Sharma.
Kohli was the last man to fall for India but not before he had scored an epic 149 which was studded with 22 fours and one six.
Early on Day 2, Mohammed Shami removed Sam Curran to end the England innings. India started their reply on a strong note with Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan adding a 50-run partnership for the opening wicket. However, things soon started to fall apart as Sam Curran and Ben Stokes ripped through the middle order.
Kohli, though, led a spirited fightback. He had managed only 134 runs in five Tests on the horror tour of 2014. However, he is much improved batsman now. After the 1-3 series defeat in England four years ago, Kohli scored 15 Test hundreds including six double hundreds and scored runs all over the world including Australia, West Indies and South Africa.
Kohli, the world’s number two Test batsman, was determined to make amends on this tour. He had said it did not matter whether he got runs as long as India won but England pace James Anderson had laughed off that theory and reckoned Kohli was lying if he thought his runs would not make a difference for the Indian team.
And that is exactly what happened on Thursday as the likes of Vijay, Dhawan, KL Rahul, Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik failed to fire.
Hardik Pandya was the only Indian batsman apart from Kohli to offer any kind of resistance. He and Kohli added 48 for the sixth wicket to dig India out of a hole.
Other than that, it was a complete Virat Kohli show. He did look a little uncomfortable at the start but there was no looking back once he got his timing right and found the gaps at will. He was dropped twice but then rode his luck to ensure India did not fall too far back.
England was the only country where he had played more than one Test and failed to score a hundred. On Thursday, he corrected that record and added to his tally in gloomy conditions in Birmingham.
This was a different Kohli on show. He left balls outside the off-stump, was patient when England dried up the runs and made no attempts to steal cheeky singles.
In fact, Kohli was batting on 47 when Pandya was dismissed. And when R Ashwin fell to James Anderson in the 51st over, Kohli was on 57. He then rotated the strike firmly with Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma to bring up a well-deserved hundred.
England must be sick of Virat Kohli by now. After the disastrous tour of 2014, Kohli smashed 655 runs at home vs England in 2016. This year, he began another five-match series with a sublime hundred. And with the mic drop gesture on Wednesday, Kohli has well and truly defined how he would like to play in the land that left with horrible memories only four years ago.