THE only thing that proved capable of removing Virat Kholi from the crease yesterday was a stray dog that invaded the outfield and forced an early tea on day one of the second Test.
Otherwise, the India captain was imperturbable as he scored a magnificent, unbeaten 151 to guide his team to 317-4 after winning the toss.
It takes something special to upstage Kholi in that form, and the dog did it by gatecrashing the playing area with four balls left until tea.
At the time, Kholi was 91 and his partner, the on-strike Cheteshwar Pujara, had 97 to his name, with Pujara thus denied the chance to bring up his hundred before the break as the dog stubbornly evaded the efforts of security staff to remove it from the field.
On a dog day for England, it barely mattered to Pujara as he advanced to 119 before being dismissed, a day that maintained cricket’s enduring relationship with the animal kingdom.
For reasons that do not need explanation, the sport has always been associated with ducks, while anyone who has listened to Henry Blofeld’s commentaries will know that pigeons are a frequent sight at grounds.
Dogs, however, are a different kettle of fish, if you pardon the expression.
Indeed, this was quite possibly the first time that a dog has stopped play in a Test match, a dog that defied description to the eyes of this correspondent – albeit one who is more of a dog-hater than a dog-lover.
Even I, however, would not have resorted to taking off one of my shoes and throwing it at the poor old mutt, the preferred tactic of one security official who appeared to take the instruction to ‘shoo’ the creature off the outfield a little too literally.
Indeed, if anyone should have been shooed-off and thrown out of the ground, it was that worker as opposed to the canine, which would have been well within its rights to turn round and bite him savagely on his unprotected foot.
They clearly do things differently in Visakhapatnam, however, where it is evidently a dog’s life being a dog.
Eventually, order was restored by those security officials seemingly as barking as the mutt itself, which at least delivered a timely blow for dogs everywhere after the Anfield Cat recently gatecrashed a miserably dull Premier League football affair between Liverpool and Manchester United.
I cannot claim to have witnessed before a case of ‘Dog Stopped Play’, although I do remember a fox briefly interrupting a County Championship match at Headingley.
The creature found its way on to the outfield during a game between Yorkshire and Notts in 2008, prompting one wag in the crowd to growl: “I ‘ope t’bugger paid to gerr’ in”.
I also recall an incident at Arundel 12 years ago, when Yorkshire’s Matthew Wood was attacked by a swarm of insects as he went out to toss-up before a one-day game against Sussex.
Apparently, Yorkshire’s yellow away kit proved decidedly to the insects’ liking, and Yorkshire had to change back into their dark-blue strip.
The Visakhapatnam dog might have been the first to interrupt a Test, but it was not the first case of ‘Dog Stopped Play’ in India.
During a game between Uttar Pradesh and Vidarbha at Nagpur in 2000, Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack reported that “play was delayed for 20 minutes by a mad dog on the field”.
In the same year, play was halted for several minutes in a match at Chennai, when a snake slithered onto the outfield.
Later in the same game, there was another delay when a swarm of bees stung spectators and caused the players to throw themselves to the ground.
Amid the veritable menagerie to have graced cricket, however, an incident in Finland takes some beating.
An elk stopped play after galloping out of nearby woodland, no doubt entranced by the gentle thwack of leather and willow.
Not surprisingly, no-one was prepared to continue thwacking while there was an excitable elk running amok.
Yesterday, it was truly a pleasure to watch Kholi and Pujara thwacking away to their heart’s content, even if we did witness the type of day that every Englishman feared before the start of the series, with the world’s No 1-ranked team on top.
But even those two batsmen might concede that they somewhat played second fiddle to the Visakhapatnam dog.
By day’s end, the dog predictably even had its own Twitter account and an army of followers to put it on course for a blue tick badge.
The dog’s Twitter biog was simple and to the point: “Love cricket, hate Indian batsmen getting to 100 before Tea. Woof!”