“I’m a lucky man. With fire in my hands. I know just who I am”. It’s probably a bit too early to be quoting Richard Ashcroft, but I couldn’t get The Verve out of my head after watching highlights of day 2.
Virat Kohli most certainly has fire in his hands. And judging by that strut he definitely knows he’s one of the best players in the world. But was he lucky yesterday? I think he was bloody lucky. But when he finally got his eye in, he took advantage of England’s generosity superbly – as world class players tend to do.
Kohli’s knock was very much an innings of two halves. The first part was skittish, fraught, fragile, and about as impressive as Edgbaston’s ticket sales on the first day. Jimmy Anderson basically had him on toast, and India’s skipper did absolutely nothing to silence those who doubt his ability to perform in English conditions.
I lost count of the number of edges that fell agonisingly short of slip. And England dropped him too. The culprit, one forlorn looking Dawid Malan, sadly doesn’t look long for test cricket. At one point Kohli himself could easily have been 51-4.
But thereafter the Indian skipper was imperious. Sometimes having nothing to lose can free a batsman up. With wickets falling at the other end, Kohli decided to play his shots. And he capitalised like the brilliant white ball player he is. Some of his strokes were brutal. And by the time he cut Adil Rashid to Broad at backward point, he’d scored a spectacular century and all but drawn India level.
So what do we make of England’s day? Once again it was pretty much par for the course. The team got themselves into a commanding position and then squandered that position. They say the best test teams are ruthless. England are profligate and careless. You can’t expect to win matches if you catch like a bunch of blind of bats in a bag.
There was one big positive, however. Sam Curran exceeded expectations and ripped out India’s top order. He swung the ball, which everyone thought he might, but what people didn’t expect was him to bowl above medium pace. In his first spell he occasionally reached mid-80s until fatigue set in. This was more like the Sam Curran that impressed me so much in the England junior teams. Perhaps he was just nervous against Pakistan?
Although I think Chris Woakes might have done some damage had he been playing, and some might argue that India’s batsmen somewhat gifted young Sam a couple of his wickets, it was hugely encouraging to see the young man rise to the occasion.
I still think Curran’s elevation to test cricket has come a little early – I bet his brother wished he was bowling on this Edgbaston pitch with a Duke ball rather than trying his heart out for no reward on Melbourne’s featherbed – but there’s no doubting his potential as a cricketer. He might not be tall, and he might not be quick, but he might develop into a superb all-rounder in time.
This test match is now set up intriguingly. Much will depend on how England bat today of course. I’m optimistic we’ll scrape together enough runs to set India a Kohli-proof target but time will tell. Our cause wasn’t helped by the dismissal of Alastair Cook in the final over of the day – clean bowled by Ashwin for the second time in the match.
Normally big question marks are raised when batsmen get clean bowed. However, I doubt there will be much criticism of Alastair because of his saintly status in English cricket. However, I have to confess that I’m worried now. Is his eye going ever so slightly? He dropped yet another dolly at slip, and although the two Ashwin deliveries that defeated him were both peaches, one might argue that he played down the wrong line initially and missed them by miles.
I’m not going to write off Cook at this point because he’s come back from the brink so many times before. However, he simply hasn’t made big runs on anything other than completely benign pitches for eons. You should never drop a batsman unless you’ve someone better to replace them of course, but England could pick Mark Lathwell at the moment and he wouldn’t score any less.
At what point do England say “sorry but enough is enough”? Or maybe it will be Cook who decides “I’ve had enough of this because I’m just not doing myself justice anymore”? I always thought it was extremely sad watching the great Sachin Tendulkar scratch around towards the end of his career. It seemed clear he was just holding on long enough for an easy opportunity to register his hundredth hundred. I would hate to see the same happen to Cook.
The problem with Alastair is that he might not know when the best time to go is. He has always been so stubborn. We might end up in a situation where he needs a nudge but nobody within the England set up has the courage to give him the gentle push he needs.
Now watch him score 200 in the next test.