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Masterful Kohli shapes strong Indian start

Skipper’s unbeaten 143 and Dhawan’s steely 84 steer visitor to 302 for 4 at close on day one of first Test

Masterful Kohli shapes strong Indian start - Cricket News
Virat Kohli was unbeaten on 143 at the end of Day 1
On a day that should have belonged to Shikhar Dhawan and could’ve gone to West Indies, Virat Kohli took ownership of proceedings in commanding fashion at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. India, having won an important toss, closed Thursday’s(July 21) first day’s play of the first Test on 302 for 4, Kohli’s unbeaten 143 headlining a strong performance.
While Kohli did all he could to shut the door on the opposition bowling, it was Shannon Gabriel who breathed early life into the game, bending his back to generate significant pace and bounce on a surface that would eventually prove to be anything but threatening. Gabriel, running in with a relaxed, loping approach at the Curtley Ambrose End, repeatedly hurried both openers with deliveries that reared from a length and sailed through to the wicketkeeper.
While Dhawan appeared less sure of himself, it was M Vijay who paid the steepest price, a brute of a lifter taking the edge and ballooning up toward the slips cordon to be caught by Kraig Brathwaite after a little juggling.
Cheteshwar Pujara, at No. 3, set his stall out for a long stint out in the middle, defending with determination and displaying the kind of self-denial that irritates and infuriates bowlers in equal measure. While Pujara was doing what he does best, Dhawan found a new gear.
Once Gabriel went out of the attack, having breached the 150kmh mark in an initial spell of 4-2-6-1, things got decidedly easier for the batsmen. Carlos Brathwaite and Jason Holder lacked the ammunition to consistently apply pressure and slowly but surely, India’s renaissance got under way. To give credit where it was due, West Indies’ bowlers stuck to their brief, and bowled with the kind of discipline that made every run a hard-earned one.
Returning from the lunch break at 72 for 1, India was well placed. But cricket is nothing if not capricious, and a rank long-hop from Devendra Bishoo, the leg-spinner who was not handed the ball at all in the first session, provided the breakthrough immediately after the break. Pujara, overeager to send a short one packing through mid-wicket, was through his pull early, the ball spearing off the outside edge to gully. On match eve, Kohli had pointed to India’s tendency towards lapses in concentration caused by breaks in play, and this turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Pujara, who had seen off 66 balls for 16, fell to the 67th, a delivery that he would hit to the fence in his sleep nine times out of ten.
Kohli set to work immediately, and he looked well set even while fresh to the crease. Like vintage wine, Kohli has just become more mature and multi-layered as a batsman with every passing year, and the authority with which he controlled the tempo of the game had the man whose name the stadium bears purring with delight. Leaving the ball alone with aggressive decisiveness, defending with soft-handed surety and punching with precision, Kohli was in the kind of mood in which he is rarely denied.

Dhawan and Kohli added 105 for the third wicket, and seemed well on their way to collating the kind of monster partnership that would set the game up perfectly, when again the suggestion of a break resulted in a dismissal. Dhawan, who had been pitch perfect in his rendition of 84, chose the wrong Bishoo ball to sweep, and when he missed, Aleem Dar had no trouble raising his finger, the red cherry heading for the middle of the middle stump before its trajectory was interrupted by pad.
Ajinkya Rahane became Kohli’s foil, protecting the partnership and keeping the scoreboard ticking over with hard-run ones and twos. There was much promise to the stand, and as Kohli motored towards the three-figure mark without the slightest suggestion of nerves, his batting partner botched a biff off bustling Bishoo. Kohli could barely believe his eyes, watching in horror as a long-hop even worse than the one that accounted for Pujara resulted in a dismissal, this time the pull being mis-hit to mid-wicket.
Having chosen to play with only five specialist batsmen, plumping for strength in the bowling department by adding Umesh Yadav into the mix, there was an elevation for R Ashwin, the first time he has appeared at No. 6 in a Test. Ashwin was confident in himself, stretching fully forward to defend and punching sweetly off the back foot when the opportunity provided itself.
But while Ashwin did his job most efficiently, he was a mere fence painter to Kohli’s Picasso. Having brought up his 12th Test hundred as though it was a mere formality, Kohli dolled up his batting. A straight drive that was perfection personified and several shots through cover where the batsman watched the ball right onto bat and them seemed to cajole rather than cream five and a half ounces of leather to the boundary had the small but vocal crowd applauding in appreciation.
Taking leading from the front literally, Kohli showed that there were neither demons in the pitch, depth in the opposition bowling nor jinxes in breaks in play, being unbeaten on 143 when stumps were drawn. India had 302 on the board and though it had lost a couple of wickets more than it would have liked, this was a fine way to start a tour in which there is plenty of cricket to be played yet.

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