As far as domination goes, it doesn’t get better than what India enjoyed at Nottingham on Monday (August 20). Already in a great position at 124 for 2 with a lead of 292, India hammered England into the ground with a disciplined, even if at times bordering on slow, batting effort. By the end of the day, and with two more to go, India amassed 352 for 7 decl, leaving England facing a world record chase for a series victory.
The star of the innings, as it has already been thrice in six innings in England, was Virat Kohli, who firmly put paid to all the ghosts of the 2014 horror by slamming his second hundred of the series. This time around, however, the other batters too came to the party. Cheteshwar Pujara played 208 balls for 72, Rahane played 94 for his 29, while Hardik Pandya slammed a quick-fire 50 at the end.
It had started from the previous day; Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul had already set a solid base the last evening, Kohli and Pujara took full advantage.
Like Sunil Gavaskar time and again emphasises, the pair gave the first hour to the bowlers. Anderson and Co. were given a lot of respect as runs came in a trickle. Pujara offered the only chance of the morning, but was dropped by Jos Buttler at second slip. England’s depressing position was further exacerbated when Jonny Bairstow was taken off the field with an injured finger, which the ECB later confirmed was broken.
India stepped up the scoring soon after. By the end of the session both batsmen had brought up their fifties as India ended with 194 for 2 at lunch. Pujara had put on a show of his temperament, blocking away majority of his deliveries and picking just the bad ones for scoring. Kohli was a tad more attacking, but by his free flowing standards was still slow. It almost seemed as if India were intent on batting long and making England toil hard on the field. Given the amount of time to go in the game, it made complete sense.
India continued to grind England in the next session when Ben Stokes broke the monotony by getting Pujara out for 72, with a ball that bounced a tad more to take the edge through to Cook at first slip. It was hardly a jolt India felt. Kohli started to chance his arm a bit more and runs flowed more freely now, while Rahane looked comfortable defending.
India could still afford to play slowly and pile on the runs, and with England taking the new ball, the priority for quick runs went on the back seat again. Kohli, now in his zone, easily played off the bowlers scoring heavily on the leg side before cashing in when the bowlers went wide. By tea, he had reached 93, and India 270 for 3. With the lead now well over 400, murmurs of declaration started floating around.
Kohli had gotten out for 97 in the first innings, which was only the second time he was out in the 90s. It could have been the third if Keaton Jennings had held on to a catch. Anderson induced the edge with Kohli swinging hard, but Jennings somehow let the ball go right through him for a boundary. In the next over, Kohli dabbed Woakes wide of slip to bring up his 23rd Test hundred. He raised his arms in delight and pointed the bat to his wife in the stands.
Not long after, he was out LBW to Woakes, failing to put bat on a flick. Pant followed soon after, out caught off Anderson for 1, but in Pandya India found the fireworks they were looking for.
Pandya had already left his impression on the game with a fifer the previous ball. Now with bat, he proved how handy he can be. Stylish flicks, exaggerated drives, vicious cuts and wild slogs all made an appearance as he slammed a run-a-ball 52, studded with 7 fours and a six, as a declaration loomed.
India’s lead quickly went past the 500-run mark, and 20 runs later, Kohli called back Pandya and Ashwin. India had declared on 352 for 7, leaving England a record 521 to chase down. That is 189 runs more than their highest-ever successful chase – 332 v Australia in 1928.
India faced their most frustrating time in one and a half days when England’s openers refused to buckle. Jennings and Cook played with caution, and survived a few close calls, as they ended the day at 23 for 0. But it was an all-round happy day for India.