Virat Kohli has been hailed as the best cricketer in the world after another century for the Indian captain set his side up for a big win over England in the third Test.
Kohli’s second century of the series strengthened his side’s iron grip on the match at Trent Bridge.
Kohli, who fell for 97 in India’s first innings, top-scored with 103 as the tourists, looking to bounce back from 2-0 down in a five-match contest, piled up a total of 352 for seven declared.
That left England needing a mammoth 521 for victory, albeit with more than two days to get the runs.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan was left in no doubt about Kohil’s status in the sport after his likely match-winning display.
“There are many really great players but he is the stand-out across all the three formats of this era by a country mile,” Vaughan said.
“He’s got the gift to play all around the wicket in every single format.”
“On this tour he has left well and made the bowlers bowl to him.
“It looks to me as though he has been working on this for some time and come with a clear plan.
“He is a wonder player. There were questions about if he could bat in English conditions. No question in my mind; he is the best batsman in the world across all three formats.
“He is an unbelievable player.”
No side have made more to win in the fourth innings of a Test than the West Indies’ 418 for seven against Australia at St John’s, Antigua, in 2003.
Kohli’s declaration left England with an awkward nine overs in which to bat.
Alastair Cook (nine not out) and Keaton Jennings (13 not out) took England to a score of 23 without loss at stumps.
India resumed Monday on 124 for two, already 292 runs in front, with Cheteshwar Pujara 33 not out and Kohli unbeaten on eight.
They could dictate terms after skittling England out for 161, with paceman Hardik Pandya taking a stunning five for 28 in six overs.
As well as batting collapse, another longstanding problem for England has been their catching and they floored their fifth chance this match when second slip Jos Buttler, a wicket-keeper by trade, grassed a left-handed opportunity when Pujara, on 40, edged James Anderson.
– Bairstow blow –
England’s woes increased when wicket-keeper and leading batsman Jonny Bairstow left the field after failing to gather a swinging Anderson delivery.
An x-ray revealed he had suffered a small fracture to his left middle finger.
“It wobbled and I just copped it on the end,” said Bairstow. “It is a fracture but it’s not displaced and that is a big thing.”
England’s one-day gloveman Buttler took over behind the stumps.
It wasn’t until Monday’s 41st over that India lost their third wicket, with Pujara edging recalled all-rounder Ben Stokes to first slip Cook.
Pujara faced 208 balls, including 19 fours, and put on 113 with Kohli.
It was a welcome return to form for Pujara, who averaged just 14 while playing for Yorkshire earlier this season.
“In county cricket I thought I was batting well but didn’t score too many,” he told Sky Sports. “I was confident enough that a big one was coming soon. I missed out on a hundred but I am pleased to get 72.”
Kohli was still on his tea score of 93 not out when his edged drive off an outswinger from Anderson, armed with the new ball, burst through Jennings’s hands in the gully.
Anderson, whose duels with Kohli have been a feature of this series, buried his head in his hands in despair after the ball went for four.
– ‘Best in the world’ –
Next ball, Kohli edged Anderson, England’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker, just short of Cook.
Kohli was not at his most fluent but this was an ideal innings given India’s situation and an edged four off Chris Woakes, his 10th boundary in 191 balls during nearly five hours at the crease, saw the star batsman to a 23rd Test hundred.
It was also Kohli’s second in three matches after he made 149 — his maiden Test century in England — in the series-opener at Edgbaston.
“You would be hard-pressed to argue against him being seen as the best player in the world at the moment,” said England assistant coach Paul Farbrace.
“He’s a high-quality player, and has shown he’s learnt a lot on this tour alone.”
Kohli was out shortly afterwards, lbw to Woakes after missing a legside flick against the all-rounder.
Pandya, now starring with the bat, extended India’s lead to 500 with a straight six off leg-spinner Adil Rashid and he had made a run-a-ball 52 not out when Kohli finally called a halt.