India vs England: Bowled through the gate

Virat Kohli stood there for a long time despite being out bowled. Even the on-field umpires went for a referral. But there was no doubt whatsoever. Kohli fell into the trap and was out for a duck.

Just before lunch on the first day of the second Test, Chepauk witnessed a piece of connoisseur’s cricket. Moeen Ali kept the cover region vacant, bowled a tossed-up delivery outside off and induced Virat Kohli to play a cover drive, his bread-and-butter shot. The ball drifted away, turned sharply after pitching and went through the gate to hit the top of off-stump. The India captain was flummoxed to the extent of disbelief. He stood there for a long time despite being out bowled. Even the on-field umpires went for a referral. But there was no doubt whatsoever. Kohli fell into the trap and was out for a duck.

Kohli came out to bat wearing a cap, not a helmet. On air, former India batsman Subramaniam Badrinath mentioned that Kohli wearing a cap meant he was unlikely to sweep. Playing the sweep on such an up-and-down pitch is fraught with danger. The batsman runs the risk of being hit in the face off a top edge. England captain Joe Root loaded the legside with fielders, which minimised run-scoring opportunities in that area, playing with the turn. For Kohli, possessing arguably the best cover drive in the business, the vacant off-side spot was too big a temptation to resist.

Moeen replaced Dom Bess in this Test and from England’s perspective it was an upgrade, although the 33-year-old off-spinner was a little shaky to start with in his first long-form international fixture since August 2019.

Kohli batted beautifully on a difficult pitch in the second innings of the first Test, albeit in a losing cause. Also, 181 Test wickets (before this game) notwithstanding, Moeen is no Graeme Swann. The India skipper backed his strengths, but Moeen came up with a beauty.

The dismissal brought back memories of Michael Vaughan’s off-break to Sachin Tendulkar at Trent Bridge in 2002. Vaughan was only a part-time spinner, but produced a moment of magic against the master batsman – the ball pitching in the rough and breaking back sharply to sneak through between bat and pad and hit the off-stump. Tendulkar, batting on 92 then, looked stunned. “Getting an Indian legend bowled through the gate isn’t that difficult as an off spinner !!!” Vaughan tweeted after Kohli’s dismissal on Saturday.

On Saturday, Moeen became the first spinner to dismiss Kohli for a duck in Test cricket. Overall, it was the 11th time Kohli was out for nought in the longest format.

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