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If ever there was evidence that it is Virat Kohli’s blood which runs rich through the veins of Indian cricket, it was on full display on a scintillating, electric, manic final day at Lord’s. While a battered Indian bench scrapped to a famous series win in Australia under Rahane’s more polite brand of leadership, only Kohli could have instilled in his charges the sheer mongrel that was required to pull off a famous victory at Lords on a day which began with the hosts firmly in control. When all is said and done, the triumph may rank amongst India’s best-ever Test victories, and certainly the greatest of the Kohli dynasty.
Heading into the final day with a 154-run lead and just four wickets in hand, India were already rank outsiders with bookmakers. By every measure, safe money was with England, who had only Rishabh Pant and a much-maligned tail to contend with. When Pant departed early in the day, the match seemed destined to end in only way: an English batsman hitting the winning runs to the delight of at least half of an unusually raucous Lords crowd.
Instead, what followed was an outrageous hour of Test cricket where England, blinded by emotion, not only threw away their advantage, but handed it to India on a silver platter, gleefully accepted by Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Shami. Ostensibly incensed by Bumrah’s barrage of bouncers to James Anderson late on day 3 of the match, England – squarely to their detriment – hunted not wickets, but helmets.
And so began not just the Bumrah and Shami show, but, from the famous Lord’s away dressing room balcony, the Kohli show. Even on broadcast television, it was obvious that the immediate cheer of “Yes boy!” after each run came not from the healthy contingent of Indian supporters in the stands, but from Kohli, who proved once again that he is a broadcaster’s dream. As Buttler, Anderson and Root elevated their slanging match with the typically mild-mannered Jasprit Bumrah – who gave as well as he got – so too was it increasingly clear from Kohli’s demeanour: he was out for blood.
Somehow, amongst the bouncers, sledging and histrionics (from both teams), Bumrah and Shami added an unbeaten 89 runs for the 9th wicket, leaving England a 272-run target, albeit in name only. To those who deal in statistics, the partnership was pure gold. Both batsmen notched up their highest Test scores. Bumrah – who had scored only 43 runs in 30 innings prior to the tour of England – has already produced 62 runs in three innings here. It was no accident; Kohli demanded ahead of the tour a greater contribution from his lower order, and when Kohli demands, he usually receives.
The raging inferno that was the Indian captain sent embers flying in all directions, but at first they landed principally amongst his own team, who took the unusual step of greeting Bumrah and Shami in the hallowed Lord’s Long Room as you might expect to greet soldiers returning from war. As Kohli was well aware, such a reception at such a moment was all the motivation the two fast bowlers would need in commencing the unlikely task of bowling England out in under 60 overs on a sunny day, with a relatively docile pitch.
A shellshocked England began their second innings in the face of unbridled, and at times overbearing, Indian hostility. When both openers were dismissed for ducks – the first time in history England have experienced this ignominy at home – Kohli’s screeches of angry delight seemed to reverberate around Lord’s, hanging over the remaining English batsmen like so many English clouds.
Wickets continued to fall in clusters even amidst defiance from Joe Root, Moeen Ali and Joss Buttler. As the last 10 overs began, India still needed three wickets, and England looked comfortable.
But, courtesy of England’s morning antagonism, Kohli and his team were simply too galvanised to fail. The skill of Jasprit Bumrah and an explosive finish by Mohammad Siraj saw England’s resistance crumble, with India claiming only their third win at Lords in 19 attempts.
Such was the ferocious intensity of the final day, it would be easy but perfunctory to overlook what unfolded on the days that preceded it. The obdurate defiance of Rahul, who etched his name on the Lords honours board with a patient 129; the 9-hour masterclass that was Root’s 180*; Pujara and Rahane batting to save not only the match but potentially their careers; and Siraj announcing himself not just as a lippy young upstart, but with 8 wickets in the match, a seriously talented firebrand.
But this match roared to such a crescendo on its final day that its overtures already appear a distant memory. While it is no secret that Kohli enjoys the heat of the battle, England will do well to remember that Kohli’s fire burns deep in his team, too.
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