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Match Analysis

A batting automaton

The tiring Vizag pitch threw up wild variations in bounce and confounded other batsmen, but not the Indian captain

The ball had solemnly sworn it was up to no good. Then it was given to a redhead.
It is the 16th over of India's second innings. Ben Stokes came charging in and hit the deck with considerable force. The batsman picks the length up early. He prepares to get on top of the bounce by shifting his weight back and standing up taller at the crease. He has no idea he is in the worst possible position for what was about to happen. The back- of-a-length delivery turned into a grubber. Mischief most definitely managed.
Virat Kohli should have been in trouble. He could even have been bowled off the inside edge. His best case scenario was if he was beaten - the line was quite wide - or if he could somehow keep the ball out. Those watching the third day's play in the Visakhapatnam Test were introduced instead to the bizarre case scenario. Kohli smeared a four behind point.
There were a few things that helped him pull that off. The original shot he was trying to play was with a vertical bat. So adjusting to the lack of bounce was easier than if he had attempted to play a cut, where the backlift gets bigger and therefore has a longer distance to travel. He provided himself with the same advantage in the 34th over, when the legspinner Adil Rashid produced a grubber. Kohli eased onto his backfoot and it came to rest slightly across onto off stump so that his head would be right in line with the ball. The inherent risk here is the possibility of lbw. But by playing the flick with a straight bat, and waiting to roll his wrists until he made the connection, not only did the Indian captain negate the chance of his being dismissed, he found another boundary.
Free-flowing batsmen find difficulty keeping up on slow and low pitches. The lack of pace means hitting through the line is difficult and even maneuvering the ball into gaps requires a great deal of effort. Kohli seems to be setting the template to prove that obsolete although if you want to follow it, you'd best hope you have hands as quick and a work ethic as strong as his. The thousands of balls he hits in the nets, the visualisation he does, the tweaks to his technique, all of it is in an effort to make sure he is equipped to make tough runs; to make sure he has a game he can trust when the pressure is high; to make sure he can not only tackle high-class bowling but dominate.
Kohli faced more than 100 deliveries on a third and fourth day surface with wild variations in bounce and finished with a strike-rate of 74. No one that had lasted as long in this match has even come close to scoring that quickly. You have to want to be there, he often says, and watching him be there is a lot of fun. There are the bat twirls. The fiddling with the grille. The re-strapping of the gloves. The tapping of the pitch. He just doesn't want to be idle. He doesn't want his concentration levels to drop because that's when he knows he may not read the play as quickly. He barely spends any time away from the stumps. No trips to square leg to slow the game down. He's ready in his stance, looking at the bowler with the impatience of a child waiting for their parent to take them to the park.
It must be draining to be so switched on. But that's why both his physical and mental strength are high. At stumps yesterday, he had made more than half of India's total - 56 out of 98. He finished with 81, only because of a spectacular catch at slip, stabilising India from an early wobble and giving them the chance to set a target never before achieved in the fourth innings of a Test in India. Kohli is a fantastic beast and everyone knows where to find him. At the heart of of a fight.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo