Kohli and Rahane fight back for India in third Test

AFP PHOTO

India captain Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane frustrated England with an excellent unbeaten century partnership as the tourists fought back on the first day of the third Test at Trent Bridge on Saturday.

India were 189 for three at tea, having been 82 for three after Cheteshwar Pujara holed out off Chris Woakes, the only England bowler to take any wickets on Saturday, from what became the last ball before lunch.

Kohli was 51 not out and Rahane 53 not out in a fourth-wicket stand so far worth 107 runs.

It was a heartening sight for India, who badly needed a significant partnership after twice being bowled out cheaply in an innings and 159-run defeat in the second Test at Lord’s that left them 2-0 down in a five-match series.

England captain Joe Root may have been left wondering about the wisdom of bowling first on a day where conditions had become progressively better for batting.

And there could be fresh questions surrounding England’s decision to drop Sam Curran, whose left-arm swing bowling added variety to an otherwise all right-arm pace attack, and recall Ben Stokes just days after his acquittal on a charge of affray.

Woakes had tea figures of three for 45 from 15 overs whereas fellow pace-bowling all-rounder Stokes had none for 47 in 11.

Much of the pre-match attention had been focused on the recall of Stokes, who on Tuesday was found not guilty by a court on charges that stemmed from a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September last year.

Stokes had missed the second Test because it clashed with his trial.

Woakes, his replacement at Lord’s, made the most of that opportunity to score a maiden Test century and take key wickets as well.

India made an encouraging start after losing the toss at a Trent Bridge ground renowned for aiding swing bowlers.

There had been concerns over the reception Stokes might receive from the crowd.

But when he came on to bowl, as first change, there was neither excessive cheering nor notable jeering, with the modest applause usually reserved for a bowler starting his spell greeting his introduction into the attack.

In his second over, Stokes accidentally collided with non-striker Shikhar Dhawan attempting to field the ball.

It revived memories of an infamous clash in similar circumstances between England fast bowler John Snow and diminutive India batting great Sunil Gavaskar during the first Test at Lord’s in 1971 — an incident that saw Snow dropped for the second Test at Old Trafford.

But on Saturday the two players involved saw the funny side, with a smiling Dhawan putting his arm round Stokes’s shoulders.

India were well-placed at 60 for none when Woakes took two wickets for one run in nine balls to removed both openers, with Shikhar Dhawan (35) caught at second slip before KL Rahul (23) was lbw.

And on the stroke of lunch, Woakes was gifted another wicket when Pujara hooked him to Adil Rashid at long leg.

But Kohli, who on Friday had urged his players “to stand up and say “I’m going to go out there and make a difference” was as good as his word.

Showing no sign of the back trouble that hampered him at Lord’s after he scored 200 runs — including a maiden Test century in England — in the series opener at Edgbaston, he was rarely troubled, with India’s fourth-wicket duo taking 29 runs off five overs from leg-spinner Rashid.

Kohli completed a 76-ball fifty, with Rahane following him to the landmark when he cut Woakes for a seventh boundary in 76 balls.