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INDIA V ENGLAND TESTS

We don't need to talk about pitches: Kohli

30 November 2016

Having secured a 2-0 series lead with a big win in the third Test, India captain Virat Kohli at pains to dismiss talk of helpful home conditions

As Virat Kohli's India head into a well-earned eight-day break in the gruelling five-Test series against England, the number one side in the world has good reason to gloat over what it has achieved so far.

The eight-wicket win in the third Test in Mohali on Tuesday, which gave the hosts an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, was the consequence of an almost impregnable brand of clinical cricket.

The pitch had nothing to do with it.

India have often been accused of dishing out rank turners to win at home, like during last year's 3-0 rout of South Africa when the spinners wreaked havoc with the then top-ranked side.

But both wins against Alastair Cook's current tourists in Visakhapatnam and Mohali following the high-scoring draw in Rajkot, were achieved on surfaces that did not deteriorate till the end.

"We don't need square turners to win," Kohli said after India won the 14th of its past 16 Tests on home soil starting with the 4-0 whitewash of Australia in 2013. The other two ended in draws.

"We win by playing good cricket against any team in the world and that is the belief we have created in the change room."

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India are also now unbeaten in their past 16 Tests – home or away – having won 14 and drawn two since losing to Sri Lanka by 63 runs at Galle in August last year.

Kohli said he was sickened by talk of how under-prepared pitches had helped India build its enviable home record.

"It was exactly 12 months ago when I was asked questions about playing on unfair pitches," the Indian captain said.

"At least now we don't need to talk about pitches. We just focus on playing good cricket. We are a team that looks to play good cricket in sessions and win those sessions."

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Kohli said the wicket at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali stood up well.

"It was a perfectly good wicket for cricket," he said. "Even pace bowlers got results as well.

"It was a wicket where if you persisted long enough, you would get the results that you want, and we did pretty well to get those results."

The key to success in the subcontinent is to put up a huge total in the first innings and let the other side play catch-up, including a potentially hazardous chase in the fourth innings.

But England failed to take advantage of good batting conditions after winning the toss as they collapsed to 4-87 on the first morning before managing to reach 283 on the back of a defiant 89 from Jonny Bairstow.

India were themselves reduced to 6-204 in reply, before their three spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Jayant Yadav, fought back with splendid half-centuries to lift the total to 417.

It was a setback England did not recover from despite courageous batting from teenager Haseeb Hameed, who overcame a fractured finger to hit 59 not out with six boundaries and a six.

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Kohli was convinced the spunk displayed by his three spinners while batting on the third day had rattled England, who would have hoped to a quick end to the innings after India were 6-204.

"When you take six wickets and then have to bowl another 50 to 60 overs to get the team out, you are confused whether you want to focus on the batting to come or focus on the field," Kohli said.

In addition to their batting heroics, Ashwin, man of the match Jadeja and Jayant claimed four wickets apiece. Seamer Mohammad Shami took five and new-ball partner Umesh Yadav had two.

Kohli, Stokes in tense exchange on opening day

Kohli, who has now won 12 of his 20 Tests as captain, said his side had played almost perfect cricket to win in Mohali.

"In a game like this when you lose the toss and get the opposition out for 283, it really gives you confidence as a bowling unit that you are on top and dictating terms," he said.

"Those first three days were very pleasing for me as a captain. When you are put in trouble, like losing the toss on a good wicket, the bowlers stand up.

"Then when you are 5-156, the lower order steps up. Our confidence went up really high after that."

The fourth Test will be played at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai from December 8 and the fifth at the Chidambaram stadium in Chennai from December 16.

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Meg Lanning Steve Smith

About the Writer

 @diplal
@diplal

Kuldip Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist who retired last year as South Asia's sports correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP). He also wrote for the Kolkata-based Telegraph newspaper and Sportsworld magazine.

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