For the first time in his captaincy Virat Kohli lost a toss at home. It was also seen that India was on the back-foot from the first morning of a Test match in home. For the first time in the long domestic season, Indian spinners were given to chase down a massive over 500 run score in their first innings.
For a team which has not seen a collective performance from their test side since the Test Series in South Africa had an uphill task of not letting England take control of a five-match series. And India was a batsman short, with Kohli going back to the five-bowler strategy. It was time for the batsman to step up. First blood to Alastair Cook’s men in Rajkot would have been a blow to the No. 1 ranked Test side in the world.
When Stuart Broad took the first wicket of the inning by getting Gautam Gambhir out, the onus of responsibility fell on Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara since the West Indies series ended seemed to be in fine touch. Add the Domestic Cricket performance in which he shined was ready for the innings. The same couldn’t be said about Vijay. It was seen that in the recent few matches there was a game of musical chair which was being played in selecting the right batsman to start the innings.
WICKET! Got him! Rashid dismisses Vijay for 126, caught by Hameed at short leg – India 318-3 #INDvENG
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) November 11, 2016
Vijay has been nicknamed the ‘Monk’, and at Rajkot he stepped up when the team needed him with an innings that befitted his nickname. Displaying immense patience and excellent judgment of where his off stump was, Vijay played a serene 301- ball knock for his seventh century in Tests. His 209 run innings with Pujara took the team to relative safety but the game wasn’t done yet.
The England bowlers were working their way towards another wicket and it was seen that Pujara was bearing the brunt of their pace attack as they peppered him with bouncers some of which even hit him straight on the helmet. Vijay was effervescent, he ducked, he swayed with his eyes firmly on the ball when Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes did nothing more than dead bad the ball, one of which even raced away to the boundary. His innings showed the brilliance of Sachin Tendulkar in Sydney making 21. When the spinners tossed up a delivery, he danced down the track to loft them over the infield- he hit four sixes against the spinners.
The highlight of the day was undoubtedly Pujara’s 9th Test Hundred. In Rajkot’s first ever Test, the local boy delighted a sparse crowd with a majestic innings. It was an innings that showed what good touch he was in.
There is no doubt as to who played the better, more flamboyant, more memorable innings on the day.
This inning will bring back the confidence the selectors and the captain will have on opening stands in recent times. It eases pressure on Kohli the batsman as well, as it is fair to say the Test Match has at least been saved by India. With the before mentioned musical chair contest to continue for the second Test in Vizag, with the impending return to fitness of KL Rahul, Vijay is assuming his limp in the final session is nothing serious.
Both of the players got out finally with Vijay lasting for a good 6 hours on the crease, Kohli could afford to heave a sigh of relief for India have played out time and cut down on England’s advantage in this Test. Even the ever-aggressive Indian captain would know it’s not always chasing a win in Tests – it’s about ensuring the team doesn’t lose.