This is an extract from ESPNcricinfo's Live Report, written midway through Kohli's innings, and in the immediate aftermath of his epic duel with James Anderson
"I'm not sure he's changed. I just think any technical deficiencies he's got aren't in play out here. The wickets just take that out of the equation."
It takes a brave man to say that when the "changed" batsman has scored 655 runs in the series. These were James Anderson's words when asked about how Virat Kohli had overcome the issues that had plagued him in 2014. India were incensed. India fans hated Anderson for it. R Ashwin had a go at Anderson on the field. As a cricketing statement, if you take out emotion, this was a fair comment: Kohli was scoring all the runs with three things absent: movement, pace in the pitch and a Dukes ball that does things even when old.
The build-up to the series was all about Kohli against Anderson, regarding which Michael Atherton made the best comment: Kohli is four years wiser, Anderson four years older. Yes Kohli has his issue with that defensive push to balls he could be leaving alone, but Kohli is indeed a much-improved batsman. And Anderson is 36 years old. He is a 36-year-old who remembers the pasting in India. A 36-year-old who beat Kohli's bat only four times in a whole series in India and had those words he said then to back up now. A 36-year-old with still the best release in the game. A 36-year-old who had been reunited with two of those three ingredients that were missing in India: movement and a Dukes ball.
Anderson had bowled seven overs already when Sam Curran removed M Vijay and KL Rahul in the same over to bring Kohli in. Those who covered India's tour of England in 2011 have a great story to tell. Whenever India lost their second wicket, and no matter where Anderson was fielding at the time, he would start loosening up even as Sachin Tendulkar strapped his gloves on on the balcony. Here Anderson refused to be taken off.
His 15-over spell was broken by a solitary Adil Rashid over before lunch and the lunch break. That's how badly Anderson wanted to have a go at Kohli. What a go it was. He bowled 43 balls of laser-like precision, drawing movement each way. He took four edges - three that fell short, one that was dropped - he had Kohli risking a run-out in a desperate attempt to get off strike, and even nearly bowled him.
Look at the pitch map for those 43 balls. There is not one ball on the stumps, but enough with movement back in to threaten them. This is personal. There is Kohli's ego. He doesn't want to get out to Anderson, but for that he has to swallow his ego and forget about scoring. He even tries to dominate Anderson early on, driving at two balls, but after one edge short of gully and another mis-hit, he goes back to playing disciplined cricket. He takes his risks against other bowlers. When he can get off strike and face them, that is.
With Anderson getting the odd ball to move back in, Kohli knows he has to be watchful with every leave. Even getting off the strike involves opening the face, and that is a risk. Anderson is accurate. He doesn't have the pace of four years ago, but he is deadly accurate. He simply delivers one patient blow after another on the tree. Weakening it every ball, asking Kohli how long he can leave balls alone before he tries a risky drive.
Kohli is adamant. He will not repeat that early mistake. Yet the physical and mental demands are huge. Watching every ball so closely for, first, swing and, then, seam movement can be mentally taxing. You leave, leave, leave. Defend the ones that come back in. And once you are sapped mentally, you start to flag physically. Except Kohli doesn't. He is alert to every loose ball at the other end. He is alert to quick singles. He is physically strong enough to take them.
Anderson, though, is a wizard. In the course of these 43 balls, he has thoroughly worked Kohli over. Kohli might have kept himself from driving at Anderson, but he has played on Kohli's bigger weakness. That defensive prod to a wide ball. If you middle it, it gets you nothing. In the process you leave yourself open to outside edges. Anderson draws one every 10 balls. One falls agonisingly short of gully, and sends Jos Buttler, the fielder, to hospital for scans on the finger. Reminiscent of how Kohli knocked AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis out of the South Africa tour with his outside edge. The second one falls short of a diving Jonny Bairstow and bounces over his glove for four. The third falls short of second slip.
This all happens during a spell of play in which Anderson bowls 26 straight balls to Kohli. There hasn't been anything to get him off strike either. When he tries, he nearly runs himself out. Both of Kohli's scoring shots off Anderson have come off edges. The 26th ball is the coup de grace. Right in the channel, drawing that Kohli defensive shot, taking a healthy enough edge, but because the edges have been staying low, third slip begins to dive in front of Dawid Malan at second. Perhaps it puts him off. Either way, he drops Kohli.
It could have been Kohli caught once again at slip for 21. It could have been India 100 for 6. It could have turned out to be the defining wicket of the series. It is none of the above. This is Kohli's day. He has all the luck. On a quicker pitch, against a better slip cordon, Kohli doesn't get out of single digits. To say otherwise - despite the epic effort from Kohli to keep India from folding for 120 - is to deny the existence of that beautiful concept in cricket: luck. To put Kohli's effort down to plain luck is to deny his fortitude, his mental and physical fitness, his will to be personally the best player in the world and in the process try to carry his team with him.
Anderson has to put all behind him, come back for another spell, keep beating Kohli again and again without success, watch him whittle down the deficit with a bloody-minded effort in the company of the tail. He has to forget his bad luck. He has to play like he doesn't care about these things when he knows fully well that sometimes these things matter the most.