The India captain, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane were picked in a brilliant morning session for the tourists as they got themselves back into the match after posting a sub-par 201 on day one.
Leach set the wheels in motion when he dismissed Pujara leg-before, the fourth time he has snared him this series. Kohli was then undone by an effort ball from Ben Stokes that had him flinching to edge through to the keeper. Numbers three and four of a strong batting card gone in the space of 17 deliveries for just a single run.
Just as it looked like India were fighting back with a solid fourth-wicket stand between Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane (27), James Anderson’s second spell removed the latter and stopped the pair in their tracks with the last action before the break.
It was very much in keeping with what we have seen over the last month. Just as poor English batting has been a theme over the last three Tests, so has the spirited bowling performance that follows to make amends. Amid the chaos of last week’s two-day defeat in the third Test was a fightback that ensured India only established a lead of 33 despite starting day two just 13 behind England’s first innings of 112 with seven wickets to play with.
Friday morning was a page from that very same book, with just 56 runs scored across 25.5 overs of play so far. Work characterised best by remarkable turns from England’s designated quicks: Stokes with one for 16 from 10 overs today with Anderson masterful and miserly with one for seven from 6.5.
Stokes’s effort was all the more laudable alongside day one’s 55 and the stomach bug he has been managing. His 10 overs were broken up by a single over for a change of ends. Having only bowled 17 overs in the series before today, the 29-year-old allrounder showcased his wares with immense spirit supplemented by late movement and the odd steep bounce.
It was the latter that surprised Kohli as he tried to get into his innings, feathering a catch through to Ben Foakes. Stokes only has two wickets across the four Tests so far, and both have been the opposition skipper. Moreover, it was Kohli’s second duck, just the second time he has pocketed a brace of zero in a series. The previous time was also against England back in 2014.
The visiting attack were on the money from the start, Stokes and Anderson drying up runs. By the time Leach was brought into the attack for the 10th over of the day, only nine runs had been scored. After a handful of deliveries spun sharply past the right-handers outside edge, the left-arm spinner struck with his 12th delivery, straightening one into the pads of Pujara to register his first dismissal of the match.
Crucially for India, Sharma (32 not out) held firm throughout. The opening batsman has thrived where many haven’t over the last month through a pro-active method that others have failed to replicate. But here, he kept quiet amid the disturbance, before striking Friday’s second boundary at the start of the 18th over.
And what a boundary it was: using his feet to get to the pitch of a Leach delivery due to turn away from him and guiding it sweetly over extra cover for four. Beyond moving him to 26 off 89 balls faced, it was a reminder to England that for all their success at the other end, Sharma remained in control of his own destiny.
He and Rahane weathered what remained of Stokes, taking their partnership to 39. But only Sharma will return after the interval.
Anderson, having set up Rahane, elicited a false stroke with what was due to be the penultimate ball of the session. Fittingly, it was Stokes who took the catch, diving to his left at second slip, to cap off the perfect morning for him and his side.