By Saikat Chatterjee
BIRMINGHAM (Reuters) - Virat Kohli scored a gritty 149 to rescue India and leave the intriguing first test finely balanced as England were left to rue several missed chances before they ended the second day 22 runs ahead on Thursday.
With England's pace bowlers running through India's much vaunted top order to leave them reeling on 100-5, it was left to captain Kohli to string together a series of partnerships as he seemed to be on a one-man mission to overhaul England's first innings total of 287.
Making the most of the two dropped catches by England at 21 and 51, Kohli let out a huge roar in celebration after belting the ball off Ben Stokes for a boundary to bring up his century.
He was soon slipping off his wedding ring from around his neck and kissing it in a defiant message to his critics who had blamed for his poor form during the 2014 England series, when he averaged just 13.40, to his now wife Anushka.
He continued to punish the England bowlers to notch up 22 boundaries and a six during his 225-ball knock.
India's last two wickets added 92 runs before Kohli was finally last man out after he misjudged leg spinner Adil Rashid's delivery and was caught by Stuart Broad at point.
His dismissal gave England a slim 13-run first-innings lead after they bowled out the visitors for 274.
Such was the dominance of the 29-year-old captain, the next top scorer for India was opener Shikhar Dhawan with 26.
"At one stage, we were staring down the barrel and Virat's innings has narrowed down the gap between the two teams immensely," assistant coach Sanjay Bangar said at a press conference. "The game is very finely poised now."
In their second innings, England lost Alastair Cook to the day's final ball as they closed on 9-1.
India had got off to a solid start in the morning as openers Murali Vijay and Dhawan chalked up a half-century partnership but the visitors were then rocked by three swift strikes by left-arm swing bowler Sam Curran.
Curran, playing in his only second test, dismissed Vijay, Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul in the space of nine runs.
Though India limped to 76 for three at lunch, the post-lunch session bought no respite with all rounder Stokes picking up two wickets to reduce the visitors to 100-5.
James Anderson was England's most economical bowler with 41 runs off 22 overs while Curran bagged four wickets.
England only managed to add two runs to their overnight total on Thursday following their dramatic collapse in Wednesday's final session.
The hosts, playing their 1000th test, had lost six wickets for 67 runs as they limped to the close on 285 for nine on Wednesday.
Skipper Joe Root had top scored with a fluent 80 but his run out from a brilliant throw by Kohli led to their demise.
(Reporting by Saikat Chatterjee; Editing by Pritha Sarkar)