England vs India 2018: Kohli and Rahane's enthralling partnership is SK Play of the Day
After winning his third consecutive toss of the series, England skipper Joe Root could not quite resist the temptation of consigning India to bat first under cloudy skies at Trent Bridge. Why not? Considering the inept manner in which the visitors had batted in the second Test at Lord's, their frail confidence was there for the taking.
With the surface showing early signs of sluggishness, the returning Shikhar Dhawan began promisingly to alleviate the nerves in the dressing room. He combined adeptly with KL Rahul to see through the challenging first hour's play in Nottingham. More importantly, the opening duo added 60 vital runs to set a reasonable platform for those to follow.
Just when it seemed like the batsmen had done all the hard yards, the enigmatic Dukes ball began to swing considerably more. Chris Woakes picked up from where he had left off at Lord's and removed both openers in his archetypal two-wicket burst.
At the stroke of lunch, Cheteshwar Pujara decided to play what could be deemed as the worst shot in his Test career thus far. In pulling a harmless Woakes delivery to long leg, India's number three batsman had reduced his team to a perilous 82/3. An all too familiar script appeared to be unfolding yet again.
Kohli and Rahane breathe life into Indian hopes
Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane eased their way in even as a few quiet overs kick-started the crucial post-lunch session. The latter found his rhythm when he caressed an over-pitched delivery to the boundary. Both batsmen survived nervous moments during a probing Woakes over. Since then, runs began to flow.
Getting close to the ball and committing as late as possible, the right-handed duo negated the movement on offer. With the England seamers searching for the outside edge, fuller deliveries and opportunities for boundaries were also in the offing. The batsmen duly obliged. Ben Stokes, in particular, came under the firing line.
Surprisingly, Root introduced Adil Rashid into the equation much earlier than anticipated. The leg-spinner got it horribly wrong as a rank long hop and an overtly full delivery were both dispatched to the boundary. The Indian batsmen continued to milk the wrist-spinner for steady runs rather than looking to hit him out of the attack.
While the pitch was a lot easier than what they had encountered in their grueling away tours this year, Kohli and Rahane simplified their task by mixing aggression with caution. Even as the England seamers kept chipping away at the good length area, they were able to restrain themselves and wait for scoring chances to arrive.
Kohli and Rahane brought up India's first century-run partnership in England since the 2014 Test at the same venue. With the sun beating down, they continued to pile on the runs. The shift in momentum could be gauged from the fact that the hosts switched attention to some short-pitched stuff.
Both batsmen interspersed the boundaries with a regular supply of singles and doubles. Their positive running between the wickets was a far cry from the hesitancy shown in the previous two Tests. The peak phase of the alluring partnership was on display when Woakes was swatted without inhibition for three fours in the same over.
Amidst the flow of runs, Stuart Broad suddenly appeared to have found his mojo. He beat the edge of Kohli's blade with a couple of unplayable deliveries. The hometown lad got a fuller one to move a fraction away and induced a rather loose shot from the well-set Rahane. Alastair Cook pouched a stunning one-handed catch at slip to end the glorious partnership.
The 159-run fourth-wicket stand, which had encompassed 40.2 overs, swelled the total to 241. While Rahane departed for 81, Kohli would later fall agonizingly short of three figures. Their enthralling partnership not only resuscitated India's fortunes at Trent Bridge but also served as a rallying call for the rest of the team.