As much as it was England versus India in the opening Test at Birmingham, Virat Kohli versus James Anderson was an equally anticipated battle and it certainly lived up to its billing. Anderson had dismissed Kohli four times in ten innings on India’s last tour of England in 2014 and the resumption of hostilities between the two was being eagerly awaited.
Anderson was already in his eighth over of his first spell when Kohli walked out to bat in the first innings at Edgbaston. Egged on by a packed Edgbaston crowd, the England pacer threw everything he had at the Indian captain. He beat the bat, found the edge on multiple occasions, created chances, drew false strokes in abundance but could not get the prised scalp of the Indian captain.
Kohli eventually finished on 149, comfortably his highest score on English soil in Tests and followed that up with a 51 in the second dig, but the initial tentativeness against Anderson was clearly visible.
“There’s a fiercely competitive rivalry between myself and Virat Kohli — but also enormous mutual respect,” Anderson wrote in his column for The Sun.
“Kohli is ranked the world’s No.1 Test batsman after scoring 200 runs in the First Test and I’m the top-ranked bowler. I guess that’s top-of-the-range stuff and I certainly loved the battle with him at Edgbaston.
"I felt good bowling to Virat and my plans worked well. I might have dismissed him a few times with some plays and misses plus a dropped catch. But the fact is, I didn’t get him out and he scored a century and a half-century. So I’m not getting carried away! In fact, it makes me even more determined to be on top form in the second Test at Lord’s.”
The first Test ended in the first session on the fourth day with India going down by 32 runs in a keenly-fought contest. Despite the pendulum swinging throughout the course of the Test, Anderson insisted that the game was played in good spirits.
“The game was played in a good spirit and there’s a lot of respect both ways between myself and Virat,” wrote Anderson. “There was the odd smile when I bowled a good ball and the odd smile from him.
"I gave him a couple of freebies on his legs that he clipped for four and he said something like ‘That’s not like you, giving me freebies!’ It was teasing, really, leg-pulling. All in good spirit.”
England’s highest wicket-taker in Tests with 544 scalps to his name, Anderson will get a chance to resume his duel with Kohli in the second Test at Lord’s that starts on Thursday, and the 36-year-old is hopeful his side can churn out something special at the ‘Home of Cricket’.
“I’ll look at some videos to see if I can do anything different. But, generally, I think all our bowlers were good against Kohli. Like I say, I was happy with the way I bowled and I’ll check to see if there is anything I can improve at Lord’s,” wrote Anderson.
“A lot of teams see Lord’s as a special place and up their games to try to get their names on the honours’ board. So we’ll have to raise our game, too.”