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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 17 August 2018

Virat Kohli relishes moment of revenge on Joe Root and England in first Test

India captain makes pointed celebration after running out his counterpart on Day 1 of first Test at Edgbaston as hosts finish on 285-9

India's captain Virat Kohli celebrates after running out England's Joe Root. Action Images via Reuters
India's captain Virat Kohli celebrates after running out England's Joe Root. Action Images via Reuters

Coming in to the first Test of the series at Edgbaston, Virat Kohli tried to claim he would not be going out of his way to prove a point in England.

Who, precisely, was he trying to kid?

Kohli always has some grievance or other to bear. Some short term, some long term. In part, that fire fuels his greatness. That, and a ludicrous amount of talent.

He was able to right one wrong at the very first opportunity on Day 1 of India’s campaign to retain the Pataudi Trophy yesterday.

For the past two weeks, Joe Root’s uncharacteristically showy celebration of dropping his bat, upon reaching a century to seal the one-day international series against India for England, has been gnawing away at Kohli.

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Maybe he would deny that, too. But the reaction of India’s captain after his run out dismissed Root, his opposite number, and changed the entire course of the first day, told a clear story.

Kohli threw off balance, from a distance, as Root and Jonny Bairstow were attempting a second run off Ravi Ashwin. It hit the stumps directly, with Root short of his ground, on 80.

What followed suggested Root’s bat-drop was still very much smarting, as Kohli raced towards Ashwin, appeared to blow a kiss to both batsmen, dropped an imaginary bat, then threw in some invective for good measure.

Cross Kohli if you like, then see what happens. It is why all those reminders about him averaging 13.4 in Tests in England – a wild aberration in a career that averages over 53 – spell danger for the home team.

It often feels as though, at the handover of the armband from MS Dhoni to Kohli, India swapped Captain Cool for Captain Angry.

It is no bad thing. Nasser Hussain, who was himself noted for a short-temper during his spell in charge of England, said on commentary he feels Kohli is at his best, as captain and cricketer, when a fiery mood has taken him.

India have some good pedigree when it comes to moody skippers, too.

Kohli’s response to Root’s dismissal brought to mind that of Sourav Ganguly and his celebrations after India won the NatWest Series at Lord’s in 2002.

When the winning runs were scored, Ganguly whipped off his shirt and wielded it round his head.

It was in mock homage to Andrew Flintoff, the opposition allrounder, who had done similar for England at the end of a one-day international in India. India captains, it appears, have long memories.

Series between England and India of the present day are often set up as a battle of Root against Kohli.

Kohli’s early blow was telling. Root and Bairstow were mounting an impressive salvage operation, after the hosts’ fragile top-order had stuttered to 112-3.

Then Root was run out, and the home side folded. Within 25 balls, England Bairstow and Jos Buttler, vital players in the engine-room of England’s middle-order, had gone, with the addition of just eight runs to the total. The slide proved impossible to arrest thereafter, especially with Ashwin performing so brilliantly.

With the late summer start to this five-match series, following a long dry spell in the UK, some England supporters had feared pitches will suit India’s bowlers better than the home ones.

India had opted to leave both the world’s highest ranked spinner, Ravindra Jadeja, and young tyro Kuldeep Yadav out of the XI for this game.

Ashwin, though, has broad enough shoulders and dexterous enough spinning fingers, to carry the burden alone.

And his four-wicket haul, which led to England being held to 285-9 by the close, was all down to his skill, rather than the facilities he was presented with.

All of which adds up to advantage India.

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