BIRMINGHAM: Virat Kohli became the latest high-profile wicket in paceman Matthew Potts’s fledgling England career as the India star’s long wait for another Test hundred continued on Friday.
Kohli was out for 11 and India had declined to 98-5 in the delayed fifth Test at Edgbaston before Rishabh Pant counter-attacked in typical style.
Pant’s quickfire 53 not out, and an unbroken stand of 76 with fellow left-hander Ravindra Jadeja (32 not out), took India to 174-5 at tea on the opening day after they had lost the toss.
Potts only made his international debut during a recent 3-0 whitewash of Test world champions New Zealand that gave Durham team-mate Ben Stokes a resounding victory in his first series as England captain.
The 23-year-old Potts dismissed Black Caps skipper Kane Williamson three times in four innings and he struck again Friday when, following a 90-minute rain delay, he took two wickets for five runs in seven balls to reduce India to 71-4.
Potts, having earlier had Hanuma Vihari dropped in the slips, removed him with so decisive an lbw for 20 that Kohli told his partner to forget about a review.
Kohli, like Williamson one of the outstanding batsmen of his generation, had scored 27 hundreds in 101 Tests prior to this match.
But the 33-year-old has not made a century at this level since reaching three figures against Bangladesh at Kolkata in November 2019.
And that drought was extended to 32 innings when Kohli tried to leave a full-length Potts ball only to inadvertently deflect the ball onto his stumps.
James Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, had already marked his return after missing the New Zealand series finale with an ankle problem, by dismissing India openers Shubman Gill and Cheteshwar Pujara with the aid of slip catches by Zak Crawley.
And the 39-year-old then had Shreyas Iyer brilliantly caught down the leg-side by diving wicket-keeper Sam Billings, in the XI after coming in as a Covid replacement for Ben Foakes at Headingley.
But the undaunted Pant charged down the pitch to drive Anderson for four and launched spinner Jack Leach for six during a 51-ball fifty featuring 30 runs in boundaries.
Friday’s match should have been played in Manchester last September only to be postponed just hours before the scheduled start because of coronavirus concerns within the India camp.
England’s side contains just four survivors — Joe Root, Ollie Pope, Jonny Bairstow and Anderson — from the team that lost to India at the Oval to go 2-1 down in this five-match series.
India are bidding for a first series win in England since 2007 and just their fourth in all after successes in 1971 and 1986.
India were without captain Rohit Sharma on Friday after he was ruled out with Covid-19. Fellow opener KL Rahul, who in common with Rohit scored heavily in England last year, had already been sidelined with a groin problem.
Both teams have experienced major upheaval since they last met, with Chris Silverwood and Root replaced as England’s red-ball coach and captain by Brendon McCullum and Stokes respectively.
Kohli stepped down as India captain in February, with paceman Jasprit Bumrah captaining the side for the first time at Edgbaston, while Rahul Dravid took over as coach after Ravi Shastri retired in November.
By playing the game, albeit almost a year later in what has become the longest-running series in Test history, India are helping to fill what would otherwise be a 40 million ($48 million) hole in English cricket’s finances.
INDIA (1st Innings):
S. Gill c Crawley b Anderson 17
C. Pujara c Crawley b Anderson 13
H. Vihari lbw b Potts 20
V. Kohli b Potts 11
R. Pant not out 53
S. Iyer c Billings b Anderson 15
R. Jadeja not out 32
EXTRAS (LB- 7, NB-6) 13
TOTAL (for five wickets, 44 overs) 174
STILL TO BAT: S. Thakur, Mohammed Shami, Mohammed Siraj, J. Bumrah
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-27 (Gill), 2-46 (Pujara), 3-64 (Vihari), 4-71 (Kohli), 5-98 (Iyer)
BOWLING: Anderson 15-3-41-3, Broad 12-1-42-0, Potts 9-1-39-2, Leach 5-0-29-0, Stokes 3-0-16-0
ENGLAND: Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes (captain), Sam Billings, Matthew Potts, Stuart Broad, Jack Leach, James Anderson
Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022