Virat Kohli century puts India in driver's seat in Trent Bridge Test against England
Captain leads from front again as tourists, trailing five-match series 2-0, set 521-run target for England with two days to go
Virat Kohli came good with the bat once again to put India in the strongest possible position to win a Test match in this series against England on Monday.
Kohli scored 103 - his second century of the five-match series - while Cheteshwar Pujara (72) and Hardik Pandya (52 not out) chipped in with half-centuries as the tourists piled on 352-7 in their second innings at Trent Bridge before issuing a declaration. Pandya followed his 5-28 in England's meagre first-innings 161 with a fourth Test fifty - a run-a-ball knock that included seven fours and a six.
Needing 521 runs to win, England ended play on Day 3 on 23-0, with Alastair Cook batting on nine and Keaton Jennings unbeaten on 13.
No side have made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test match than the West Indies' 418-7 against Australia at St John's, Antigua, in 2003. England's corresponding record is their 332-7 against Australia at Melbourne back in 1928/29.
Given that the hosts lead the series 2-0, India must win in Nottingham to keep alive their bid to clinch a first Test series on English soil since 2007. India are also hoping to become just the second team in Test history to win a five-match series from 2-0 down, a feat achieved by a Don Bradman-inspired Australia against England in 1936/37.
India resumed the day on 124-2, already 292 runs in front, with Pujara 33 not out and Kohli unbeaten on eight. It was not until the 41st over that England had their first success, with the recalled Ben Stokes getting Pujara to edge a routine chance to Cook for his first fifty of the series.
Pujara faced 208 balls, with 19 fours and helped Kohli add 113 for the third wicket.
Kohli succeeded where he had narrowly failed in the first innings - he was dismissed for 97 on Day 1 - by scoring a century on Monday. He stroked 10 boundaries in his 197-ball essay. He nearly got out to James Anderson when his edged drive off an outswinger from the England medium-pacer, armed with the new ball, burst through Keaton Jennings's hands in the gully.
It was the latest dropped catch in the cordon by England this match and Anderson, whose duels with star batsman Kohli have been a feature of this series, put his head to his hands in evident despair after the ball went for four.
Next ball, he edged Anderson, England's all-time leading Test wicket-taker, just short of Cook at first slip.
There was to be no denying him his century and an edged boundary off Chris Woakes, his 10th four from 191 balls faced in nearly five hours at the crease, saw him to a 23rd Test hundred.
But having got to the landmark, Kohli was out shortly afterwards when he missed a legside flick against all-rounder Woakes and was lbw for 103.
To make matters worse for England, wicketkeeper and leading batsman Jonny Bairstow suffered a finger injury after failing to gather a swinging Anderson delivery.
He writhed in agony and then walked off, with an x-ray later revealing a small fracture to his left middle finger. However, Bairstow is expected to be able to bat if required.
“The doctor has been in trying to relieve some pressure on it, but hopefully when he is needed he will be OK to bat,” England assistant coach Paul Farbrace said on Monday.
“Five matches in such a short space of time takes its toll but we have a good team looking after them and you want your best players to play as much as they can.”
Jos Buttler, England’s gloveman in limited-overs cricket but playing in this series purely as a batsman, took over behind the stumps.
Farbrace sounded optimistic about England’s chances of at least saving the match by batting out the next couple of days.
“Tomorrow is about showing guts, determination and class,” he said. “Kohli is the best player in the world, his technique he is constantly improving and learning about and that’s something we can all learn from.”
India will do well to not take anything for granted.
Updated: August 20, 2018 10:41 PM