Vijay, Kohli tons stud India’s day of dominance

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India racked up 356 for 3 on Day 1, after electing to bat. © AFP

India’s hospitality towards a Bangladesh side visiting their shores for a maiden Test in 17 years didn’t last long. Virat Kohli won a toss on a surface with a gentle smattering of grass, that served as a nice deception to its underlying flatness, and bulldozed his way to 16th Test match hundred – completing his set of scoring at least one ton against all seven opposition he’s played against. Murali Vijay too compiled a typically unfussy 108 as India motored along to 356 for 3 at Stumps on Day 1.

The two tons followed a mammoth second wicket stand between Cheteshwar Pujara, who fell 17 short of his own three-figure score, and Vijay. The duo put on a breezy 178-run stand – their seventh century partnership and fourth in excess of 150 – as India dominated proceedings against an excitable but erratic Bangladesh attack. The visitors had their moments – there was a missed catch off Pujara and a contender for the run-out miss off the season – in the first session when India were still in a benevolent mood, but they failed to cash in on it and were given a lesson in front-running by the top-ranked Test team with Ajinkya Rahane (45*) too joining the party in an unbeaten century stand with his captain.

The hundreds were as contrasting as the players scoring them. If Vijay’s was all elegance, Kohli’s was all purpose. The skipper walked out to bat after the big second wicket stand and duly proceeded to authoritatively hit two of the first three balls he faced for fours. It was like 2016 all over again, which he also began with a Test century in Antigua. What Kohli’s fast start did so effectively was take the limelight off Vijay, who was made to wait long either side of the Tea interval for his ninth Test ton. While Vijay took his time to get to his landmark, Kohli had added 31 of the 50 partnership runs.

This was Kohli at his steadfast best. He was not going to let Bangladesh breathe easy after ending one dangerous stand. At the same time, there was no need to indulge in show boating. He scored five fours in his first 50 and five more in his second, doing all his scoring by haring across the pitch.

Vijay was more methodical. Admittedly this is just a one-off Test but the Indian did little wrong to enhance his reputation as a specialist of series openers. His scores in the first Test of recent series now read 108, 126, 31, 65, 76, 7, 75, 47 and 150. But today, he brought maturity to his usual grace. He didn’t have the easiest of starts. Unlike Kohli, he didn’t get a flurry of boundaries to get going. It was a hard graft to get acclimatised to the pace on the wicket. But as the day wore on, it was business as usual. A languid square drive there, a flick here and then out of nowhere, a shimmie down the ground and a six into the sight screen.

Bangladesh waited long for their first Test on Indian shores but they had arrived with a belief that they had the tools to challenge, if not upstage, their hosts, at their own game – spin. But lo! The pitch wasn’t offering any. Certainly not on the first day. They had fielded three spinners, bringing back Taijul Islam in the mix, but their best moments came from the seamers with the new ball. That’s something the hosts will have kept tabs on having decided, rather surprisingly, to bring in a third seamer in Bhuvneshwar Kumar. That meant Karun Nair joined a unique list of players to sit out immediately after scoring a triple hundred.

KL Rahul took only four deliveries to add another chapter to his all-or-nothing Test career, wafting at a full Taskin Ahmed delivery and playing onto his stumps. That setup a probing start to the Test match for the visitors with the two-prong seam-attack of Taskin and Kamrul Islam allowing India’s openers only three scoring shots – each a double – off the first three overs. Taskin attacked Pujara with inswingers interspersed with the short and quick variation, keeping the forward short leg in play.

Vijay and Pujara had tucked in to weather the storm. There were no plans of a counter-attack. And then Bangladesh suffered two ill-timed fielding lapses. Rabbi, with his slingy action, had Pujara nicking to an away swinger but watched in agony as Mushfiqur Rahim’s indecision to go for the catch left the ball dropping short of the first slip fielder.

Rabbi’s morning officially turned into a nightmare a few overs later when Bangladesh turned to spin. The young Mehedi Hasan had already had the two Indian batsmen poke tentatively past the first slip fielder with his drift when a mix-up between the two batsmen should have had Vijay run-out for 35. The bustling pacer, in the middle of a lengthy first spell, effected a diving stop at square leg but his lobbed throw reached Mehedi on the half-volley and the fumble allowed a stranded Vijay the time to get back.

It was a cardinal sin, one that Vijay and Pujara ensured Bangladesh would pay for. All the three spinners were in action post-lunch but posed no threats to the now well-set duo. Rabbi overdid his short-ball strategy against Vijay and was punished with disdainful pull shots. All along, Pujara played his part to perfection, tackling the left-arm spinners with exemplary use of the crease – going back, front, back and front in a sequence of four deliveries against Mehedi.

With his 83rd run, Pujara pipped Chandu Borde’s 52-year-old record of scoring the most first-class runs in a season (1604). He was denied a century though when another drifter from Mehedi clipped his outside and lobbed up helpfully off Rahim’s pads. But there was Kohli to follow, who had a few records to chop down of his own. Vijay fell to an ill-fated sweep off Taijul Islam. The left-armer was easily the best of Bangladesh’s spinners, whose day was aptly summed up by an LBW review against Kohli after the Indian captain had middled a delivery.

Kohli quietly slipped into overdrive in the final hour. He became only the third batsman after Sunil Gavaskar (1978-79) and Virender Sehwag (2004-05) to score 1000 runs in the calendar year. That was a but a minor footnote as he raced to a 70-ball hundred in a 150-run final session. Sixty-five runs came off nine overs once Bangladesh opted for the second new ball and Kohli ensured he stayed put until the very end to leave the visitors dreading their fate on the following days.

Brief Scores: India 356/3 (Virat Kohli 111*, Murali Vijay 108; Taijul Islam 1-46) vs Bangladesh.

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