Kohli's India leave pitches debate in past

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Kohli hails India’s response to adversity

Winning a Test match on a good pitch despite losing the toss gave Virat Kohli great satisfaction. India kept England to 283 in the first innings, earned themselves a substantial lead and then kept finding ways to pick up wickets on a surface that posed very little threat to the batsmen in terms of the ball spinning wildly, keeping low or bouncing alarmingly.

“I think it’s exactly been 12 months about us playing on unfair pitches and the question has turned itself,” Kohli said. “So we don’t need to say much about the pitches. We are a team that is focused on playing good cricket to win sessions and situations, or if we are in trouble come back out of those tough situations.”

A lot of the rescue work for India in Mohali was done by the bowlers. R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav recorded match-turning half-centuries – the first time India’s Nos. 7, 8 and 9 passed 50 in the same Test innings – to help take the first-innings score from 156 for 5 to a massive 417.

“I think the first two days of the game is exactly what the team wants to do as a Test team,” Kohli said. “When you are put in trouble after losing the toss on a good wicket, the bowlers stand up. Then on day two, you are 156 for 5 and then your lower order steps up.”

From a point where they were in danger of conceding a lead, India pulled ahead by 134 runs and with the help of that picked up four wickets to end the third day’s play firming in charge.

Ashwin bowled Alastair Cook through the gate and did Moeen Ali with his dip. Parthiv Patel, playing his first Test in eight years, pulled off a stunning low catch to dismiss the year’s top run-getter, Jonny Bairstow, just before stumps and India capped things off with the wicket of Ben Stokes with a fine call for DRS. The match turned on the back of India showing better skill than England as opposed to them exploiting home advantage.

“It was a perfectly good wicket for cricket,” Kohli said. “It was a wicket where if you persisted long enough you get the results that you want. And I felt that we did that pretty well to get the result our way.”

Speaking to Star Sports at the post-match presentation, he added that the celebrations by England’s supporters when Cook won the right to bat first had spurred India on. “I was surprised to hear the cheer when they won the toss,” he said. “You still have to go out and win the game. We got motivated by that actually.”

His opposite number confirmed the same; Cook compared the Mohali pitch to Rajkot, where England had three centurions after winning the toss to set the game up. He also admitted that, with hindsight, he may have gone in with four fast bowlers and two spinners.

Key to India’s success were their fast bowlers. On the final day, when the spinners were kept at bay by Haseeb Hameed and the rest of England’s lower-middle order, Mohammed Shami was given the second new ball and produced a fine spell of short-pitched bowling to dismiss Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid in the same over.

Kohli praised Shami for becoming a better bowler since his knee injury in 2015. “He is rushing in much more now and he is able to sustain that energy now for four-five good overs and he’s bowling long spells,” Kohli said. “He’s become more aware of what he wants to do and what he has to do to be a good Test bowler and he’s making those important breakthroughs.

“Even Umesh, for that matter, they both have bowled over 145kph consistently and on these kind of pitches, to not lose heart and keep coming in and running in and bouncing guys, I think speaks a lot of their character and I’m only waiting to play on pitches that assist them a little bit, it’ll be nice to see what they can do there as well.”

The resources that India have at their disposal – two outright fast bowlers, a seam bowler in Ishant Sharma, a swing bowler in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and top-quality spinners who can all bat too – has left them feeling they have what it takes to do well on all conditions.

“Even when we played in Kolkata earlier this year [where they beat New Zealand] we showed that we are not a side that wants square turners,” Kohli said. “We have enough skill to play good cricket and win against any team and that’s the kind of belief we have created in the change room and that can only happen when you are not worried about what’s happening outside that door. You focus on your skills and strengths and move along.”

Kohli had been less than happy with the surface for the first Test of the series, feeling it had a bit too much grass on it – sparking suspicions that the remainder of the series would feature the ball turning from day one. While the decks in Visakhapatnam and Mohali were not green, they were not as bad as some feared either, with India’s victory in the latter proving that the toss would not be the end of the contest.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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