Choice of game
I was visiting India for a month-long break and had timed my vacation such that I could attend the Mumbai Test. Wankhede Test are generally quite entertaining as the pitch offers something for everyone and the game moves quite fast. England had won their previous two Tests here and India was on the verge on another series win. All this offered a tempting prospect to watch the game.
Being an Indian, I was supporting India but all I wanted to see was a contest between bat and ball and a hard-fought day of Test cricket. And both the teams didn't disappoint.
Things I would have changed
There are two things in particular that I would have changed. First being the heat. Despite being December, temperatures in Mumbai are still well in the late 20s and as the day went on, the sun was beating straight down at the Sunil Gavaskar stand making it very uncomfortable. The seats in the stadium are not the most comfortable either and that added to the uneasiness.
But more importantly, I would have changed the way Alastair Cook used Adil Rashid in the first session. After removing Cheteshwar Pujara early, England had a great chance to attack with the legspinner when both M Vijay and Virat Kohli were looking to settle in. Instead, Moeen Ali bowled a fairly ordinary 10-over spell allowing them to get set for the long haul. By the time Rashid was brought in, Vijay had reached his ton and Kohli was beginning to dominate the bowling. He got just five overs in the first session and the tactics were baffling.
India had lost Pujara off the second ball of the day while still trailing by 254 runs. They ended the day with a lead of 51. Between the third ball of the day and stumps, Virat Kohli had stitched together yet another mature century proving again how he has lifted his long-form game. It was a near chanceless knock filled with sparkling strokes and astute defense defying the English bowlers throughout the day. He was also the crowd favourite and had been welcomed with loud cheers which only increased as his innings progressed.
This has to be the moment Virat got to his ton. The crowd had come to watch him bat and he didn't disappoint. There were deafening cheers as he moved swiftly through the 90s and chants of Vi-raat-Virat filled the stadium. Virat got a well-deserved standing ovation after reaching his hundred and it felt like we had got our money's worth.
Face-off I relished
Rashid vs the Indian middle order. After picking Vijay, Rashid had begun to trouble the Indian middle order with his leg spin. Every now and again, he would get one to grip the surface and beat the outside edge or the googly would miss the inside edge to strike the pad. He may not have got the wickets to show for his effort, but he kept a lid on the scoring which brought wickets from the other end. The afternoon session saw some gripping cricket between Rashid and Kohli and while Kohli emerged the winner, Rashid could have easily run through India on another day.
Shot of the day
There were a few contenders for this. Virat's slap pull off Stokes in the 69th over which also took him to 1000 test runs in 2016, Vijay's lofted drive over Anderson's head in the 77th over and Virat's rasping off drive in the 131st over. But one shot that stood out was the boundary Virat hit just after reaching his ton in the 121st over. Jake Ball bowled a full wide delivery which Kohli dispatched with a classy square drive. What made the shot great was his hand-eye coordination which accounted for the lack of footwork. The ball sped across the turf in no time and beat the man sweeping on the off-side boundary. It was also a statement of what was to come.
The crowd at the Wankhede was energetic throughout the day. The day started with a few pairs of Punjabi drummers in North, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar stands playing the drums which made the crowd dance. There was never a dull moment as the crowd cheered every single run with the loud vuvuzela. If there was a lull in the game, Mexican waves were performed to keep everyone on their feet. One of the waves lasted seven rounds and it was wonderful to watch and be a part of.
No Wankhede Test goes without chants of Sachin-Sachin and this one had its share too. The crowd also showed their admiration for Mumbai Indians player Jos Buttler as he was fielding at the fence by applauding and cheering him on. All-in-all the crowd made it a great experience just as much as the cricket did.
India's dominance in the first session, England's comeback in the second and India's fightback in the final session made this an intriguing day of Test cricket. Virat and Vijay's tons and the celebrations in the crowd at every milestone made it a highly enjoyable day, one which I will remember very fondly. The chants of Virat-Virat are here to stay for a very long time.
Marks out of 10