‘Failure’ by Kohli has only underlined prowess

India captain Virat Kohli, front, hugs Lokesh Rahul after his century against England during the third day of the fifth Test in Chennai (Picture: Tsering Topgyal/AP).
India captain Virat Kohli, front, hugs Lokesh Rahul after his century against England during the third day of the fifth Test in Chennai (Picture: Tsering Topgyal/AP).
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“KOHLI falls cheaply” ran the headline on the Test Match Special website.

It was enough to put a smile on the face of every Englishman.

Years ago, newspaper billboards would proclaim – albeit once in a blue moon – the dramatic words: “Bradman Fails”.

There is similar surprise these days when Virat Kohli slips up, such has been his impact in the ongoing series.

On day three of the fifth and final Test, Kohli departed for 15 as India reached 391-4 in reply to England’s 477.

It was 113 runs short of what he had been averaging in the first four Tests, and it saw his series average slip to a mere 109.

When the India captain drove a delivery from Stuart Broad into the hands of Keaton Jennings at short cover, the Chennai crowd was stunned into silence.

They had come not so much to see India play England as to watch Kohli bat, just as the Australian public used to flock to watch Bradman in days of yore.

No-one stands statistical comparison with ‘The Don’, of course, who averaged 99.94 in Tests, but Kohli is arguably the king of the modern masters.

Take out his 655 runs in this series and India would not be blessed with a 3-0 lead; indeed, he personally played a major hand in two of those wins.

But even the best are human –emphasised, of course, by the fact that Bradman fell 0.06 runs short of a Test average of 100.

Like anyone, Kohli is not infallible in the early stages of an innings, and it was to his 29th ball that he fell at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.

For that, England – and Broad in particular – deserved credit.

England deliberately dried him up outside off-stump, restricting Kohli’s scoring chances with a tight line and length, and he ended up chasing the fatal ball from Broad in his enthusiasm to score.

It was manna from heaven for those television and radio pundits who needed no second invitation to trot out the tiresome cliche that England had successfully “executed their plan”.

Alas for the tourists, it was one of only four wickets yesterday on a flat surface that will make a positive result difficult to achieve.

Difficult, yes, but by no means impossible if India can cause tremors in the game’s third innings.

If the hosts get a lead, which they should do from here, England could be made to pay for the umpteenth time for not scoring more in their own first innings.

England’s 477 was hardly inadequate, but it was not the decisive score it might have been after several players failed to capitalise.

India caught something of the same bug yesterday, although the symptoms were not quite so severe.

Parthiv Patel – pressed into service as an opener due to an injury to Murali Vijay – played superbly before giving it away on 71, trying to hit Moeen Ali to the mid-wicket boundary only to get a leading edge to Jos Buttler at cover.

Cheteshwar Pujara followed one from Ben Stokes and was caught at slip by Alastair Cook, the former Yorkshire batsman scoring 16.

But the biggest giveaway came from a man who had hitherto given nothing away en route to his highest Test score of 199.

KL Rahul, a 24-year-old making his 12th Test appearance, had a double hundred there for the taking.

But he had a rush of blood when he reached for a wide ball from Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid and was caught by Buttler at squarish cover.

Never has a man looked more disappointed to lose his wicket than Rahul, who practically took longer to get off the field than he had in compiling his 199 runs.

He was the ninth player to be dismissed one short of a Test double century, and the second Indian after Mohammad Azharuddin.

The wicket was Rashid’s 23rd of the series, equalling Doug Wright’s record for the most by an English leg-spinner, achieved against Australia in 1946-47.

Many have compared Rashid unfavourably to India’s Ravi Ashwin, the world’s No 1-ranked Test bowler, but the Yorkshireman is not a million miles behind him statistically in this series.

Going into today’s action, Ashwin had taken 28 wickets at 28.25 against Rashid’s 23 at 34.08, while Rashid’s strike-rate of a wicket every 57.3 balls was slightly superior to Ashwin’s one every 60.4.