Nagpur: It took just about half-an-hour to change the complexion of the game.
Virat Kohli (103) and Mahendra Singh Dhoni (99) batted almost the entire day — 75 overs to be precise — in their endeavour to take India to a position of strength in this fourth and final Test here, at the VCA Stadium.
But off the very first ball after Saturday’s last drinks break, Graeme Swann (three for 76) trapped Kohli leg before to break the crucial 198-run stand for the fifth wicket. It gave England some relief after India’s dominance in the first two sessions.
Kohli’s dismissal triggered yet another Indian collapse, as the hosts lost three more wickets in a space of only seven overs to finish Day III at 297 for eight, still 33 short of England’s 330.
From a commanding 269 for four, India lost four wickets for just 28 runs to hand the momentum back to England.
Alastair Cook’s brilliant direct hit to run out Dhoni for 99 in the day’s closing stages tilted the scales in England’s favour.
In the day’s second last over, Dhoni, having spent 38 minutes in the 90s, pushed James Anderson (four for 76) for a single towards mid-off in an effort to bring up his sixth Test century. But the England captain swooped and hit directly that found Dhoni short of the crease by a fraction of an inch.
Swann then doubled England’s delight by cleaning up Piyush Chawla in what turned out to be the last ball of the day.
Dhoni seems to have made it a habit of coming up with something spectacular when under pressure. Kohli too showed he can adjust his game to the needs of the situation.
The duo’s contribution is significant since they were up against a highly potent bowling attack and had to rescue the side from a precarious 87 for four.
Besides, very few had expected the duo to play out even an entire session, given their form going into this game. But the manner in which both batsmen paced their innings was absolutely magnificent.
Kohli, though, did exhibit his flair and style once he crossed the half-century mark with a superb drive between cover and mid-off off Monty Panesar. For Dhoni, it was a completely uncharacteristic innings as he hardly showed signs of discomfort on having to curb his natural instincts. He took as many as 137 deliveries to get to his 50, which came off a fierce cut when Tim Bresnan pitched it short and wide.
Dhoni’s innings only reflects that the captain is capable enough to adjust his game in accordance with the nature of the pitch, which in this case, was extremely slow and unsuitable for stroke-play.
Kohli and Dhoni focused on occupying the crease and grinding the English attack in the first hour, a strategy that paid off as finding the gaps became easier as the day progressed.
Importantly, both of them scored in tandem. It wasn’t about one batsman holding fort at one end and another playing strokes at the other. For instance, both had contributed 49 runs each while putting up the 100-run partnership.
The England side looked frustrated as the pair started to call the shots.
Around 45 minutes after tea, Kohli pumped his fist in joy at having registered his third Test hundred with a punch off the back foot, off Swann, which raced to the boundary.
The joy, however, lasted for a short while as Swann finally had the last laugh.
Soon after Kohli’s departure, Anderson darted one in to debutant Ravindra Jadeja to trap him leg before. Dhoni and Chawla’s dismissals thereafter took the sheen off a good day for India.