India's skipper hit his 12th Test ton to get the tourists' campaign off to the best possible start on first Test's opening day
Master batsman Virat Kohli has started his Caribbean adventures in the best possible manner by scoring a sparkling century on the opening day of first Test in Antigua.
Kohli scored his 12th Test century and his first against the West Indies to put India in a commanding position. Kohli, who had been in sublime form in the T20 format in 2016, had no trouble transferring his form into the Test arena as he remained unbeaten on 143 as India ended the first day on 4-302.
Electing to bat first, India openers Murali Vijay and Shikar Dhawan were tested by barrage of bouncers by West Indies quick Shannon Gabriel. While Dhawan had some good fortune Vijay perished to the tactic on seven, as he gloved a sharp lifter to second slip.
For the next hour Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara played the patience game scrambling to 1-72 at lunch. The introduction of leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo after the interval brought immediate success for the hosts as Pujara fell trying to pull Bishoo’s second ball.
The wicket not only brought Kohli to the crease but it also changed the tide. The India skipper got off the mark with lovely crisp drive followed by gorgeous punch to the cover boundary. Those two shots seemed to open the floodgates.
Dhawan, who had dawdled along to reach his fifty in 84 balls decided to up the tempo by upper-cutting Gabriel for six and then unleashing couple of powerful sweeps against Bishoo.
Within the space of few overs, Kohli and Dhawan had put the West Indies in a defensive mode. Fielders sprawled to patrol the boundary ropes as Kohli pierced gaps with his majestic wrists. The batting maestro reached his 50 in 75 balls with vicious cut shot off Carlos Brathwaite.
The two men from Delhi put on 105 for the third wicket at nearly four an over, before Dhawan was adjudged LBW for 84 in the last over before tea. It was a disappointing end to an atypical Dhawan innings of grit rather than flamboyance.
Ajinkya Rahane also started briskly against a wearing West Indies attack. India's vice-captain and Kohli rotated the strike at will by running hard between the wickets and using deft touches to ensure the runs kept flowing on a slow pitch. The pair added 57 in 75 balls as India took their score past 250.
On a pitch with inconsistent bounce, Kohli used the depth of the crease to perfection, as he raced into the 90s with a sublime on-drive. But before he could reach the milestone, Bishoo picked up his third wicket as Rahane hit a long-hop straight to mid-wicket.
It didn't rattle Kohli, who soon whipped one off his pads in typical fashion to bring up his ton. Kohli’s century had come in 134 balls, the second-fastest of his career.
With 20 overs left in the day Kohli continued to manoeuvre the ball in the wide open spaces, and went to stumps unbeaten on 143.
In his 43rd Test match, Kohli is still 26 runs shy of his highest score of 169, set against Australia at the MCG in 2014. But in this form, a first double century is not out of reach.
It was a long day for the West Indies attack, as they failed to keep the pressure on from both ends. Bishoo was the best of the bowlers finishing with 3-108. Gabriel showed glimpses of his raw pace but at the end, the young side had fallen prey to the genius of Kohli.
The last session yielded 123 runs in 35 overs and with Kohli refreshed tomorrow it could be another long day for the West Indies if they fail to strike with the second new ball.