Just before lunch on the first day of the second Test, Chepauk witnessed a piece of connoisseur’s cricket. Moeen Ali kept the cover region vacant, bowled a tossed-up delivery outside off and induced Virat Kohli to play a cover drive, his bread-and-butter shot. The ball drifted away, turned sharply after pitching and went through the gate to hit the top of off-stump. The India captain was flummoxed to the extent of disbelief. He stood there for a long time despite being out bowled. Even the on-field umpires went for a referral. But there was no doubt whatsoever. Kohli fell into the trap and was out for a duck.
Kohli came out to bat wearing a cap, not a helmet. On air, former India batsman Subramaniam Badrinath mentioned that Kohli wearing a cap meant he was unlikely to sweep. Playing the sweep on such an up-and-down pitch is fraught with danger. The batsman runs the risk of being hit in the face off a top edge. England captain Joe Root loaded the legside with fielders, which minimised run-scoring opportunities in that area, playing with the turn. For Kohli, possessing arguably the best cover drive in the business, the vacant off-side spot was too big a temptation to resist.
— wahab memon (@wahabme82677886) February 13, 2021
Moeen replaced Dom Bess in this Test and from England’s perspective it was an upgrade, although the 33-year-old off-spinner was a little shaky to start with in his first long-form international fixture since August 2019.
Kohli batted beautifully on a difficult pitch in the second innings of the first Test, albeit in a losing cause. Also, 181 Test wickets (before this game) notwithstanding, Moeen is no Graeme Swann. The India skipper backed his strengths, but Moeen came up with a beauty.
The dismissal brought back memories of Michael Vaughan’s off-break to Sachin Tendulkar at Trent Bridge in 2002. Vaughan was only a part-time spinner, but produced a moment of magic against the master batsman – the ball pitching in the rough and breaking back sharply to sneak through between bat and pad and hit the off-stump. Tendulkar, batting on 92 then, looked stunned. “Getting an Indian legend bowled through the gate isn’t that difficult as an off spinner !!!” Vaughan tweeted after Kohli’s dismissal on Saturday.
— AmirCXN (@cxn_amir) February 13, 2021
On Saturday, Moeen became the first spinner to dismiss Kohli for a duck in Test cricket. Overall, it was the 11th time Kohli was out for nought in the longest format.