Kohli, Jadeja, Pant continue India’s domination over WI
Tea India 649 for 6 decl. (Kohli 139, Shaw 134, Jadeja 100*, Pant 92) v West Indies
Former West Indies captain Courtney Walsh is impressed with Virat Kohli’s drive to keep churning runs effortlessly
Virat Kohli brought up yet another inevitable-looking hundred, scoring 139 off 230 balls, a more than acceptable pace in Test cricket, but it looked decidedly pedestrian against Rishabh Pant and Ravindra Jadeja’s domination of a beaten and bruised West Indies attack. Pant fell on 92 off 84 balls, and Jadeja finally brought up his maiden hundred, off 132 balls, as India declared their innings on 649 – their highest total in Test cricket against West Indies. West Indies were looking at 29 testing overs before stumps.
As is usually the case with innings of such attacking intent, Pant enjoyed some luck. Sherman Lewis bothering him with the short ball for about one over, and Keemo Paul beating his bat as a result of that was the most competitive – albeit fleeting – period of play in this Test. India had begun smoothly on the second morning, when Lewis began to test Pant with the short ball. On a slow pitch, it should have hardly mattered, but once Pant got a top edge that fell short of deep square leg, an over of uncertainty followed, where an edge fell short of slip, and another wide of the bowler. In the next over, Paul pitched it up and Pant threw his hands at it with no feet. Beaten.
With nearly 400 on the board, Pant kept playing his shots, and when they come off they looked amazing. The flick off the pads was the most productive against pace, and once West Indies went back to spin, Pant was all over them. Over midwicket, over mid-on, taking on long-off at the boundary. At one point, Pant threatened to beat Kohli to the century despite starting the day 49 behind. Eventually, there was one shot too many, as he failed to pick a Devendra Bisho googly, and edged a hoick.
There was no such uncertainty around Kohli’s hundred. It seemed like batting practice for him. He was hardly challenged by the bowling and the conditions. It was like a session where a batsman is trying to reinforce the basics in the nets. Leave alone wide balls; drive if it is too full; if it is a touch straight, close the bat face late. He ran hard. There were enough bad balls in between for him to not take any risk to try to put the bowler under pressure. His century was his 24th, taking him past Virender Sehwag on the list of most centuries for India, and placing him behind only Sunil Gavaskar, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.
When he off-drove the first ball he faced post lunch for only his eighth boundary, Kohli crossed 1000 runs for the third year in a row. He began to take risks now. Having survived a return catch before lunch, he picked a wrong’un and smacked it over midwicket for four. He began to walk down against pace, eventually getting a leading edge that ended his innings.
In a 64-run stand with Kohli, Jadeja had by then established himself at the wicket. As wickets fell at the other end, finally giving Bishoo some reward for his unremarkable toil that gave him 4 for 217 – the second-most expensive figures for West Indies, Jadeja grew more and more adventurous. The half-century was uneventful, his sword dance reminding you of his promise that he had something special planned to celebrate a hundred.
Thanks to their run rate, India had a lot of time to allow Jadeja a shot at the hundred, but they had lost eight wickets by then. However, Jadeja found support from Umesh Yadav as they added 55 for the ninth wicket. Jadeja showed the urgency required, hitting the second ball he faced after his fifty for a six back over Bishoo’s head. That was the first of his five sixes. He went from 50 to 98 in 34 balls despite refusing singles when batting with the No. 11 Mohammed Shami.
That West Indies were a beaten lot showed in how poor their captaincy was. The first ball Shami faced was the 26th of their partnership. The field didn’t change at all at the end of the overs, allowing Jadeja to take the single and retain the strike. Shami kept his end of the bargain, allowing Jadeja to get to the hundred. The celebration, it turned out, was joyous, involving a long look at the heavens above, but he didn’t add any variant to his sword dance.