England kept their World Cup dreams alive with a stirring victory over India, Jonny Bairstow letting his bat do the talking with a match-winning century at Edgbaston.
The stakes were incredibly high for the hosts after back-to-back defeats but Eoin Morgan’s side held their nerve in a 31-run success, ending India’s undefeated streak and reclaiming their own place in the top four.
Bairstow’s suggestion that critics were ‘waiting for us to fail‘ had been poorly received during the week but he repaid any lingering debt in style, striking 111 to set up an imposing 337 for seven.
Bairstow did not go into battle alone, fit-again opening partner Jason Roy setting the tone with an aggressive 66 and Ben Stokes making it three half-centuries in a row with his bustling 79, but his knock did the heaviest lifting.
Roared on by a hugely partisan crowd which flipped home advantage on its head, India needed luck and skill if they were to make a record World Cup chase and Rohit Sharma had both.
Dropped at slip by Joe Root with just four to his name, he went on to make 102.
But despite that England’s attack showed their mettle, Chris Woakes taking two wickets and a glorious boundary catch while Liam Plunkett justified his recall in place of Moeen Ali with three for 55 – including master batsman Virat Kohli.
England may not need to see off New Zealand at Chester-le-Street to seal a semi-final place but they go into their last group game knowing nobody can stop them if they do.
Virat Kohli’s masterclass century defied England and dragged India back into the contest on a gripping second day of the first Specsavers Test at Edgbaston.
Sam Curran (four for 74) made a sterling home bid for the headlines, with three wickets in eight balls during a titanic first hour of the afternoon – and England were well-served too by Ben Stokes and James Anderson.
But Kohli (149) was an unstoppable force – after two dropped chances – as he banished memories of his miserable maiden Test tour to this country four years ago – when he averaged 13.4, with a top-score of 39 – as he compiled his 22nd Test century in an India total of 274 which contained no other innings above 26.
Kohli’s one-man show meant a home lead of only 13 after the tourists’ last two wickets added 92 – and when Alastair Cook was bowled for the second day in succession by a Ravi Ashwin off-break, for a duck this time, England reached stumps nine for one second time round.
The India captain attracted an outbreak of partisan boos when he walked out at 54 for two, thanks to his controversial ‘send-off’ after running out his opposite number Joe Root the previous day.
But 172 balls later, he had the last laugh – amid another energetic celebration – after cutting Stokes for his 14th four to reach three-figures as he dominated a last-wicket stand of 57 in which Umesh Yadav made just an unbeaten single.
India’s reply to 287 all out was eventful from the outset, but they nonetheless reached 50 without loss.
Curran – who had earlier failed to add to his overnight 24 as England mustered just two extra runs for their last remaining wicket – then quickly proved a dab-hand in helpful conditions.
Murali Vijay was pinned lbw, KL Rahul dragged his second ball on to his stumps, and then Dhawan edged to second slip.
After lunch Stokes soon proved he could swing the ball just as effectively as Curran, only faster.
While India were stuck on 100 for 21 balls, a full match quota of incident took place.
Two wickets, two dropped catches and Hardik Pandya’s overturned review on nought is the synopsis of a mesmeric passage of play.
Anderson’s long-awaited duel with Kohli culminated in an edge to second slip on 21, only for Dawid Malan to put down a costly low catch.
One ball later, Pandya – still on nought – this time edged to Cook at first slip, and another chance went begging.
England therefore just had two successes to show for their compelling hour of cricket.
Ajinkya Rahane had tried to leave one that bounced on him from Stokes, and managed only to edge to Keaton Jennings at third slip.
Then Dinesh Karthik lost his middle-stump to an inswinger which brought Stokes his 100th Test wicket.
It was testament to Kohli’s great determination, skill and some good fortune that he survived when it seemed at one point a wicket was odds-on every ball.
He did so again, immediately after reaching his half-century with his ninth four, when he was again dropped by Malan in the slips – a much tougher chance than the previous, off Stokes.
After tea, Anderson finally had deserved reward with a dead-eyed delivery which took the off-bail as Ashwin played inside the line – and when a driving Mohammed Shami edged him to Malan, India were eight down and still 105 runs behind.
But Kohli was far from done as he went on to better his 2014 tour aggregate in just one attempt before finally cutting Adil Rashid into the hands of point to leave England’s openers 3.4 overs of aggravation – time for Cook to find trouble again.
Surrey have pulled off a major coup by landing India captain Virat Kohli on a one-month deal.
Kohli, cricket’s biggest global star, has agreed to join the Brown Caps throughout June.
News of Kohli’s first domestic deal on foreign soil is the latest example of a relaxation in attitude from the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The BCCI has also allowed Cheteshwar Pujara (Yorkshire), Ishant Sharma (Sussex) and Varun Aaron (Leicestershire) to sign as overseas players in England this year.
The 29-year-old averages more than 50 in all three formats for India and is ranked as the top one-day batsman in the world.
Kohli said: “It has long been an ambition of mine to play county cricket and I am thankful to (director of cricket) Alec Stewart and Surrey for allowing me the opportunity to join them during their 2018 season. I can’t wait to get to the Kia Oval.”
Former England captain Stewart said: “We are thrilled to have signed the biggest name in world cricket for the month of June.
“Playing and training alongside Virat will be a massive benefit for our players who will have the opportunity to learn so much from him.
“At a time when there is much discussion around the future of county cricket, the arrival of Virat should give our domestic game a massive boost and positive exposure around the cricketing world which in turn can benefit every county.”
Kohli will be available for three Royal London One-Day Cup games and three Specsavers County Championship fixtures.
Surrey’s current overseas player, South Africa’s Dean Elgar, is contracted to the end of May and they have also strengthened their bowling attacking with recently-retired Proteas seamer Morne Morkel on a Kolpak deal.
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