NASSER HUSSAIN: Virat Kohli made clever adjustments to his game, but fell back into the hands of Ollie Robinson… given the demands on the Indian captain, it’s no wonder he’s started playing a few tired shots
- Virat Kohli struggled with running and hadn’t been at his best for a while
- He made changes to his game and reached half a century on Thursday
- But Ollie Robinson sacked the India captain for the third time in this series
- It must be remembered that Kohli plays an exhausting number of matches
It is the sign of a champion cricketer that they are always watching their game and trying to improve – even in a series where the matches come and go at such a pace.
So when Virat Kohli came to bat on Thursday, it was noticeable how much attention he had paid to the difficulties he was experiencing in that channel outside the stump. There was clearly a trigger move to get off the stump and cover it, then try to leave everything outside his eyeline.
It’s hard to hit the Dukes ball in England as India finds out, but Kohli had gone, addressed a concern and tried to overcome it.
Virat Kohli made some intelligent tweaks to his game, but was still undone by Ollie Robinson
The result was that for a while England wasn’t sure whether to continue bowling in the canal, which became wider than usual due to Kohli’s trigger movement, or if it would go for the magic ball and try to catch him lbw, as he punched his punches. .
Early on, they went twice for magic, and Kohli just hit it back halfway through. It was a real touch of class and showed how the best players force opponents to rethink their plans.
In any case, England were a little too full for Kohli, especially at the start of his innings when there were too many floating drive balls. It was like they were still bowling a Headingley length, whereas at The Oval you want to be about a foot shorter if you want to hit the top of a stump.
Kohli looked more fluid and controlled than his previous innings, but was out for 50
In fact, when Chris Woakes dropped Kohli in the briefs at 22, it was a perfect oval length, and then England realized where to bowl to him. Look how they got him out the whole series – just below waist height outside the stump. When they got back to that, they regained some control.
But Kohli must have been disappointed with the shot that proved his downfall. Ollie Robinson bowls a nice inswinger, and Kohli presumably thought he could work it around the corner. But he was surprised by the bounce and eventually closed the face of the bat.
It was a confirmation of the point Rohit Sharma made recently. He said you never compete when you’re batting in England. A wicket-taking ball can always be around the corner. And Kohli is now at 50 in consecutive innings without continuing.
That’s unusual for him. Before this series, he had 27 Test Hundreds and 25 Half Centuries which is an amazing conversion rate. So England did well to limit him to a few fifty-somethings – a bit like the opposition used to do against Joe Root. The boot has been on the other side in recent weeks.
The Indian skipper can be forgiven a silence of form, given the responsibility that rests on him
But Robinson has gotten him three times in this series, which is a big kudos to him, and it may have something to do with his release point. As of the start of 2020, India has only had 18 against bowlers with a release point over 2.15m – like New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson, as well as Craig Overton and Robinson here – so he’s exploiting a bit of a weakness in that sense.
And what India will be concerned about – at least until Shardul Thakur came into contact with some – was the repetitive nature of their layoffs. In principle, England has not had to rethink many of their plans.
You bowl a certain length to Rohit, but a bit fuller to KL Rahul. To Cheteshwar Pujara, aim for the fourth stump. For Kohli, drag your height back a little. And with Chris Woakes making a welcome return to the side, England had the perfect attack for these conditions.
That said, we shouldn’t be too hard on Kohli. The amount of cricket both sides play – more than any other team in the world – can be exhausting, and Kohli bears the added burden of being the captain of India, with all the demands that come with the job.
It’s no big surprise when he starts playing a few tired shots outside. The fact is that in an impossibly busy schedule, he still found time to tinker with his game. And for a while it was a joy to watch.