England have a Virat Kohli problem – they must stop scrapping with him to rescue the series
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India celebrate their second Test victory at Lord’s.
India celebrate their second Test victory at Lord’s.

ENGLAND are winning the battle against Virat Kohli the batsman but losing the fight against Virat Kohli, the competitor, and will change approach today after having their fingers burnt at Lord’s. England would gladly have taken a batting average of 20.66 for Kohli going into the third Test of the series, especially with their own captain, Joe Root riding high with two centuries as he prepares to play on his home ground. Kohli has been exposed outside off stump, reaching at wide balls on a fourth or fifth stump line, a run of misjudgments in complete contrast to his last tour to England in 2018. In 2018, Kohli averaged 75.25 against anything outside off stump from the seamers, with four dismissals, but due to a technical change of opening up his stance more to negate inswing, he has been dismissed three times nicking off to England, averaging just 10.66 to those wide balls.

Even though England have successfully probed this weakness and managed to keep Kohli quiet and dependent on team-mates for India’s runs, he is still living inside their heads, winding them up and affecting their thinking at crucial moments with his aggressive approach.
Kohli was picked up by the on-field microphones speaking in Hindi and saying to his players “For 60 overs they should feel hell out there” before they bowled England out inside two sessions for 120 to win the Lord’s Test. He had already lit the fuse on Saturday night by encouraging Jasprit Bumrah to pepper James Anderson, which led to confrontations as they walked off at the close of play and still had England rattled two days later, probably costing them the Test match with their intent on revenge when Bumrah was batting.

Kohli was often hanging around, waiting at the crease for new batsmen in the second innings attempting to intimidate and crank up the pressure with a word or two. He fired up his bowlers and was not prepared to take a backward step. It has left England with a decision to make on how to handle Kohli this week. Do they give him the silent treatment, refuse to engage and bite on his provocations no matter how aggressive or do they go back at him hard, reminding him of his own form?
To do that it has to be a unified effort with all buying into it. They have tried, with bowlers reminding Kohli it is “all about him” and provoking him while batting at Lord’s. Ollie Robinson, in only his third Test, was engaging with Kohli at Lord’s shortly before his dismissal to Sam Curran.
But now at 1-0 down they need to change tact because getting into a fight with Kohli only makes him more punchy and England less focussed. However difficult, they are better off not getting sucked into Kohli’s world and seem set to try and ignore him at Headingley.

In the absence of Ben Stokes, England lack the menace to go with the words. They are ill-equipped to win a streetfight. Anderson chunters when he is bowling but obviously cannot give anything back as a batsman. Root is more of a cheeky chappie kind of character, smiling at slip and coming up with the odd quip.
Jos Buttler insists he is a lot harder than we think. Umpires stepped in on the final day at Lord’s when he confronted Bumrah and he was fined a couple of years ago for abusing Vernon Philander but generally steers clear of trouble. It is just not in the make up of Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow to become involved with the opposition. The others are too inexperienced or unsure of their places to start picking fights with the world’s most famous cricketer. Root tried to be diplomatic today, wary of getting sucked into a Kohli storm before the game but admitted they had the wrong approach at Lord’s. “The most important thing for us (with regard to) the theatre and everything else surrounding the game is we’ve got to make sure we play the game how we want to play it and look after that the best we can and not get too distracted or drawn into anything that is not us,” he said. “We have got to be genuine to ourselves, genuine to how we are as individuals and how we are collectively and be as good as we can be in the way we go about things.

“Virat and his team will play the way they play and I just want us to go out and be the best version of us. I think we have done some good learning off the back of the last game.” Kohli will not change. He has an attack at his disposal that can back up words with actions. The intensity of Mohammad Siraj and pace of Bumrah is the difference between the teams so he knows he can unsettle England two ways. If he recalls Ravichandran Ashwin this week it will give India another ultra-competitive bowler to throw at England who wound up Australia captain Tim Paine last year. The question is whether Kohli really needs to push the line? He has a talented team, a better bowling attack and more experienced batsmen, even if they are struggling for runs. India are 1-0 up with everything in their favour. It makes for great sporting theatre, which Test cricket thrives on, but India are good enough to beat England without it. (The Telegraph)

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