Kohli luckless but looked good, rest of top order shaky against masterful Anderson and spirited Potts

As the barrel-chested Matthew Potts barged into his teammates in joy after terminating Virat Kohlithe former India skipper stared helplessly at Rishabh Pant, the non-striker, before he flashed a wry smile into the distance. As though fate was conspiring against his resurrection.

Kohli felt lucky, because he exuded more confidence than most of his top-five colleagues. He was leaving well—until that moment of indiscretion—blocking stoutly, disciplined outside the off-stump and looking like the 2018 vintage. But his split-second dilemma to shoulder arms or not ended in a benign ball well outside off ricocheting from the underside of the bat onto his stumps. But Potts’s bounce was troubling him—he had him nearly chopped on. This wrecker-ball did not bounce as much, and Kohli was a trifle late to decide.

The rest of his colleagues, though, departed in familiar fashion. Shubman Gill nicked behind, pushing hard at a shortish Anderson ball, after looking fluent in his 24-ball 17 run stay that included four boundaries. Gill perhaps was not expecting this length from Anderson. This one bounced a trifle more than Gill had gauged and shaped away to destabilize him. The frame was eerily identical to his dismissal in the first innings in the practice game against Leicester.

It was another testament that Anderson is one of his sport’s master craftsmen, in control of every last little nuance of his art. The new ball that barely misbehaved, before the lacquer wore off, made England‘s decision to bowl under the billowing clouds look dodgy. So Anderson resorted to wobble seamers and good length balls, harnessing movement off the surface rather than in the air. Then he bargained Gill’s wicket with a short ball.

It was to be the Anderson mantra of the day. This was not classical Anderson slapping full lengths and moving the ball this way and that. This was Anderson with a deep understanding of the batsmen’s minds, conditions and surface. He had tormented Cheteshwar Pujara throughout the series, so he had no plan to alter his default plans.

Pepper him with good-length balls and flip in the away-bender. Pujara would get sucked into a hard-handed semi-forward defensive thrust and edge behind. The sequence of dismissal was written all over the gray clouds, and so it unravelled. Pujara seemed undercooked—Broad spooked him with nip-backers, one of them was adjudged lbw, before it was reversed. He, thus, was a walking invitation for Anderson.

The second-most experienced Test cricketer ever, a wealth of 172 Tests and naturally gifted, Anderson detects the faintest of flaws in a batsman. Shreyas Iyer is dodgy against the short ball. So Anderson bowled short, with a leg slip for the reflex stab from Iyer. The surface was not quick, Anderson has not gotten quicker either, but his short balls were so sharp and accurate that it stung. Rather, the slowness made those awkward for Iyer to duck or weave away. Iyer, who was emphatically driving Potts and reversing the momentum, eventually gloved down the leg-side to Sam Billings.

From the other end, rumbled in Potts. Despite strapping in build, there is a litheness about him, a rare fusion of grace and power. He struck just when Hanuma Vihari and Virat Kohli were rebuilding. There was an element of good fortune in both dismissals. Vihari was blasted in front of the stumps of what seemed like a natural variation—the seam, in mid-air, suggested that the ball would move away, but after landing, it boomed into Vihari’s pads. The batsman was stunned. He thought the ball would seam away, and even if it did hoop in, it would miss the stumps. But he did not account for exaggerated movement. Then arrived the Kohli moment. His litany of woes continues.

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