Virat Kohli batted like he has been in coloured clothing in 2016, scoring runs with consummate ease, and thanks to the skipper, India posted a decent score after day one of the first Test against the West Indies in Antigua on Thursday.
With a certain Sir Vivian Richards watching on from the stadium named after him, Kohli got his aggressive mood on from the off to ease to an unconquered 143 from 197 balls (16x4), with India reaching stumps on the opening day of the series on 302 for four in 90 overs. West Indies toiled hard on a wicket that had very little for the bowlers, with the legspinner Devendra Bishoo (27-0-108-3) finishing the day with three wickets.
After winning the toss and electing to bat first, Kohli, who went with five pure bowlers in the lineup, would have wanted his openers to give India a strong start, but the usually-reliable Murali Vijay (7, 26b, 1x4) was sent back to the pavilion by a snorter from Shannon Gabriel – a ball that took off from back of a length before taking the glove and looping over to Kraigg Brathwaite, who just about held on at slips. There were a few more that did that over the course of the day and WI, maybe, did not use that weapon often enough against the India batsmen.
It was the proverbial battle of attrition from there, with Shikhar Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara dropping anchor with little concern about scoring runs. The two took India to 72/1 in 27 overs at Lunch, and while the plan would have been to take it up a notch in the second session, the second wicket partnership of 60 was broken by Devendra Bishoo, in the first over after Lunch.
Pujara misread the pace of the legspinner's delivery, went for a pull shot way too early and only found a leading edge to Brathwaite who ran around from point to take the catch in the covers. That was the end of a patient, but eventually fruitless, innings from Pujara, with his knock lasting 89 minutes and 67 balls, with just 16 runs coming off it, none of those off boundaries.
That wicket proved to be a blessing in disguise for India, because it brought Kohli to the crease. The skipper, seeing that the wicket did not have any demons on it – there was grass cover, but no movement and the pace of the wicket wasn't alarmingly quick either – decided to set the tone from the off.
His first boundary was a trademark cover drive, which also got him past 3000 Test runs, before the fours just kept coming.
Bishoo might have been pretty accurate most of the time, but Kohli rarely had trouble scoring off the legspinner, while Gabriel, Jason Holder, debutant Roston Chase and Carlos Brathwaite could not stop the runs flowing off the right-hander's blade either.
With the momentum shifting courtesy Kohli, Dhawan went up a gear as well, marching to his half-century in the process. The left-hander should have got to his hundred too, but an ill-advised sweep shot off a straight delivery from Bishoo, in the penultimate ball before Tea, led to his demise. Dhawan (84, 147b, 9x4, 1x6) missed the delivery while going for the sweep and the ball struck him plumb in front.
Despite that wicket, India still bossed the second session, scoring 107 runs in a ball under 28 overs. Much of that was down to Kohli, who would race into his 90s, only to then see Ajinkya Rahane (22, 36b, 4x4) throw his wicket away, off another short delivery from Bishoo.
However, the India captain would not be denied his 12th Test match century, with a single to fine-leg off Carlos Brathwaite, who had ticked Kohli off a little earlier on with an unnecessary throw back to the wicketkeeper, giving him the hundred off just 134 balls.
With R Ashwin sent in ahead of Wriddhiman Saha, the two batsmen stayed together till the 80th over. And when the West Indies decided against taking the new ball, surprisingly, with Holder deciding to just go through the motions with his spinners – Bishoo and Chase -- Kohli and Ashwin (22 n.o., 69b, 2x4) eased their way to stumps with little trouble.
Fall of wickets: 14/1 in 6.2 overs (Murali Vijay); 74/2 in 27.4 overs (Cheteshwar Pujara); 179/3 in 54.5 overs (Shikhar Dhawan); 236/4 in 67.2 overs (Ajinkya Rahane).