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Virat Kohli’s dismissals in England in 2014 had a distinct pattern. James Anderson’s line and length could have been packaged, sealed and sold as a magic formula to get rid of Kohli. It would have sold in millions given Kohli’s terrific form.
It widely became the acknowledged formula to dismiss him, whose weakness was highlighted every time Kohli and England were mentioned together in a sentence.
However, 2018 has thrashed those preconceived notions down the drain after Kohli slammed 593 runs across five Tests in England at an average of 59.30 including two tons. In the process, he not only established supremacy in all countries in the format but also banished the outside-off-stump-sitting-duck rumour with aplomb. This carnage came post a bowling-dominated South African series where he racked up 286 runs in three Tests, including a breathtaking 153 at Centurion.
The last thing Australia would probably want now is to see how Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander – three of the four being party to the group that devoured them in their backyard – were walloped around Centurion by Kohli. However, they could fast forward the uneasy bit – the first innings century – and move to the second innings where Lungi Ngidi had Kohli trapped in front.
In that century at Centurion, Ngidi nearly had Kohli as his maiden Test scalp when the captain inside-edged the seamer onto his pads and the umpire ruled him out only for Kohli to review and overturn the call. In the second outing, though, the impressive Ngidi stuck to his plan and had Kohli trapped in front as he missed the flick onto the leg side.
There’s no ideal way to put in hard work. Everyday is an opportunity. Stay fit stay healthy! ✌️💪🏃 pic.twitter.com/ytNV9bTrLg
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) 17 November 2018
“I thought I had him,” Ngidi had said after nearly dismissing him the first time. “I thought he had hit the ground, so I was very confident. When I saw that edge (on the replay), I kind of dropped a bit, but I knew I had to get back on the ball.”
The well-planned dismissal was perhaps taking cue from Philander’s outstanding work at Cape Town in the first Test when he bowled eleven balls on the trot to Kohli, all outside the off-stump, before moving one back into him and trapping him in front.
On sub-continental wickets, Kohli has the game and effortless ease to bury anything on his legs to the fence. With seam movement on offer and the additional pace of the South African seamers, the task became a tad more arduous. The offense wasn’t a one-time thing as evidenced in England and back home against West Indies when Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Jason Holder dismissed the Indian leg before wicket.
A common pattern in all of these dismissals was how the ball moved back into Kohli with the angle of the seamer – Ngidi, Stokes and Holder having a natural inward angle with their bowling actions. These five lbws contribute a large chunk to his eighteen dismissals this year.
The fact that all of them have come off the bowling of right-arm seamers is good news to the Australian pace attack which boasts of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins as right-arm seamers with Peter Siddle, a plausible addition as fourth seamer. Mitchell Starc too is extremely quick and moves the ball into the right hander, albeit from a left-arm angle.
The potent pace attack has a minor chink in Kohli’s armoury to work against. Cummins has that natural inward movement like Ngidi and Stokes and is a great candidate to be used upfront against Kohli. It is worth noting that if the ball gets old and it starts shaping in, Siddle is a valuable addition with his reverse swing.
He has also had the better of Kohli on four occasions previously and it wouldn’t be the worse move to back their top six batsmen and add Siddle as a fourth seamer given the massive threat Kohli poses.
Starc from around the wicket with the old ball too offers this advantage with his extra zip and pace a threat to Kohli’s defense if the ball doesn’t reverse and comes straight on instead. With the new ball, though, the onus is on Cummins and Hazlewood to expose this blip.
They both generate natural seam movement and despite what is commonly believed, Australian surfaces encourage seam movement as evidenced during the Ashes. The extra pace of Cummins makes him the most exciting option for Paine against Kohli. That said, it could also result in Kohli bombarding that leg-side fence relentlessly if they err in execution.