Format and place appear to have no impact on Virat Kohli as the Indian continued his fine form to notch up his 12th Test century of the 1st Test against West Indies. Kohli's ton and Shikhar Dhawan's equally, if not more, important 84 have put India in the driving seat with 302 runs on day 1.
When Virat Kohli last came to West Indies, it was for his Test debut in 2011 – a young Kohli struggled and stuttered against the short ball and had a largely unforgettable start to his Test career in the Caribbeans. But this time was different – captain of the Test team, best batsman in the world this year, that too across formats. While Tests have been his lesser of the three, it appears he has decided to make amends.
As expected India went in with five bowlers and with Shikhar Dhawan opening alongside Murali Vijay. Dhawan was expected to make way for an in-form KL Rahul after failing to reach 50 runs in seven innings, but Kohli kept his faith in his Delhi teammate. The surprise was on the bowling side as India went with three seamers adding Umesh Yadav and leaving out spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, who had been phenomenal in the last Test series in similar conditions.
The captain won the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that would cease to offer the bowlers anything after the initial hour or so. Murali Vijay could not weather that initial storm and got out at 7 runs to Shannon Gabriel off a scorching bouncer, but Skikhar repaid the faith reposed in him. Steadying the innings beside Pujara and then Kohli, he reached his fifty, one that should take some weight off his shoulders. It was not all rosy as the opener struggled against the pace of Jason Holder and Gabriel. He had to duck and weave against the short ball, and edged one, but somehow kept his cool to keep going. It was a test of his patience and resilience and he stood his ground. He finally cut loose before lunch scoring at more than a run-a-ball.
But it was Kohli who stole the day. In a minor spot of bother at 74/2 after Pujara got out right after lunch, India needed someone to take the fight to the West Indian bowling which was putting the batsmen under the gun. This was not a seamer's paradise, and a run-fest had been on the cards. Pushing the run-rate at a fast clip, Kohli cut and drove at will sending the fielders scurrying. Dhawan kept up with the sole six of the innings with an upper-cut off the same Shannon Gabriel who had troubled him earlier. Kohli brought up his half-century soon at a strike-rate of 67, but Bishoo would turn the only thorn in India's side on the day.
He had been at the receiving end so far what with his straight line and sending the ball in quick and flat. Dhawan and Kohli had relished the toothless spin that left nothing to imagination. But after tea, he first dismissed Dhawan who attempted a sweep to find himself missing the length as the ball stayed in line and struck him plumb. Dhawan had played his role to near-perfection – anchoring the innings through a tough opening spell, setting the stage for Kohli and the rest, but falling short of a deserved century.
Ajinkya Rahane started all fiery – two consecutive boundaries saw him reach 9 off 7 balls, but the second was an edge off Gabriel. But then the two dug deep scoring a mechanical 3 runs off each over for the next five. Rahane, seeing the tired fielders, took his chance and pulled Bishoo for consecutive boundaries through mid-wicket. But Bishoo had the final laugh sometime soon as Rahane's pull shot found the ball considerably slower, and unable to adjust, the ball took a top-edge and billowed to midwicket.
It was Ravichandran Ashwin who came out to bat ahead of Wriddhiman Saha next as Kohli sat on 99. The skipper scored his century soon and kept going effortlessly and Ashwin kept good company as India look to pile on misery over the West Indians on day 2.
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