After getting off to a solid start of 50/0 in their reply to England's 287, the Indian top order went into a freefall with the top-three batsmen falling to poor shots within the space of 14 balls bringing skipper Virat Kohli to the crease in the 15th over of the innings. Everyone expected him to have a torrid time, with the ball still relatively new and the skies being overcast aiding the swing of the English bowlers. Such assumptions had as much to do with the present as the past. (MATCH SCORECARD)
On his last and only Test tour to England four years ago, Kohli managed just 134 runs across 10 innings while never touching the 40-run mark - being dismissed by James Anderson four times. Four years later, and his team in trouble in the first innings of possibly their greatest test yet, the vultures had started circling over the under-pressure Kohli. Though what transpired over the next five hours was the stuff dreams are made of. (Also Read: Wife Anushka Sharma applauds Virat Kohli's match-defining knock from the stands)
Kohli scored just 6 runs off the 43 balls bowled at him till Tea on Day 2 of the first Test by his greatest nemesis Anderson. More importantly, 41 of these were either left alone or defended by the batsman. He would later go on to be the last batsman dismissed in the Indian innings after scoring possibly a match-defining 149.
In the first hour of his innings, he was tested to his limits by the English attack, especially Anderson who seemed hell bent on getting his wicket. This was reflected in the probing 15-over spell - either side of lunch - bowled by Anderson after Kohli arrived at the crease. Kohli, the batsman is known for his aggression on the field and the desire to attack the opposition at all costs. But yesterday we were witnessing a different side to Kohli. (Highlights, India vs England, 1st Test, Day 2)
The Delhi-born phenomenon chose to swallow his ego and gave Anderson the respect that the veteran deserved. Kohli realised that he was bowling exceptionally well and he couldn't risk losing his wicket with batsmen falling cheaply at the other end and the first innings deficit well above 100. A zillion leaves and a few edges and mishits later, Kohli had achieved his purpose of taking Anderson out of the attack. The words of the former England batsman-turned-commentator Michael Atherton: 'Kohli is four years wiser while Anderson four years older', now ring truer than before.
With the tail at his disposal, and India still way behind England's total, Kohli suddenly switched on to ODI mode. (Also Read: Lone warrior Virat Kohli slams maiden Test century in England)
All of a sudden he started finding gaps in the field and farm the strike with the tailenders. The effectiveness of Kohli's batting with the lower order can be seen in the fact that after the dismissal of the last recognised batsman - Ravichandran Ashwin, the captain scored 92 of the 116 balls faced while the corresponding figures for the three tailenders were - 8(37)!
This meant Kohli was able to bring the deficit down to a mere 13 when he was dismissed, having turned the match on its head with unarguably one of the best Test centuries ever.
Kohli has scored 22 Test hundreds in his illustrious career to date. But the superlative ton he scored on Thursday has to be his greatest Test innings till date. The fact that he outscored his previous runs tally in England in just one innings has also proved all his doubters wrong. His duel with Anderson has now set up the match and the series beautifully and from a fan's perspective there couldn't be a better advert for Test cricket than a gritty, fighting Kohli century against Anderson and Co. in their own backyard.