Batsmen make mistakes. Not just when they are dismissed, although that's where we focus. According to analysts who track these things, batsmen make an error 12-14 times in 100 balls. But not all false shots are created equally. Soft hands are one way of doing; swinging very hard can also do it. Some batsmen get outside off stump as well. The best way to make runs is to limit your errors or make them less dangerous.
This innings by Virat Kohli he did something almost no one does, he almost eradicated them.
Despite phrases like chanceless innings, batsmen don't do that. The ball doesn't always hit the middle, there are play and misses, they lofted balls just near fielders even in the best knocks played in Tests. On occasion, there are innings where this doesn't happen. Where a batsman stops making any genuine errors.
Usually they are early on in the match with flat pitches. A middle-order player, entering when his top order have broken the bowling down. It's not the kind of knock you expect in the fourth innings of anywhere, especially Asia, India, and Chennai when your team is heading for an enormous loss. This was an inhuman level innings.
False shots are subjective measures; analysts are sat in digital bunkers making these decisions based on their observations rather than cold hard data. Now you can quibble on certain balls. At one point Kohli placed a ball down through the legs of Ben Stokes at slip, I saw an edge with soft hands, Gareth Batty on talkSPORT suggested it was a guide that he meant and always safe. So it is hard to agree on these things. But I checked with Cricviz and Cricinfo, and both have this as an incredibly low mistake innings. I had three I thought he wasn't in control of myself. That gives us a pretty decent consensus.
In 104 balls, Cricinfo said he was out of control on four occasions. The first one was most probably from Jofra Archer. He drove from the absolute middle of the bat, but the ball held up in a puff of dust and was lofted back over Archer's head. It was safe because he hit it dead straight, and because it came from the middle, it cleared Jofra's head by a mile. When your mistake is off the middle of the bat, from a ball that does something odd from the pitch, it shows how you are going.
So Kohli's error rate was less than 4%, the rest of the Indian line up were at 14.6%. The non-Kohli Indian team didn't bat terribly. Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill and Ajinkya Rahane got incredible balls to be dismissed, but none were batting terribly. And these were trying circumstances. There were footmarks, but they didn't end up playing that big of a role. But Root was LBW from one that kept low from Bumrah on day four. And if you can get the ball past Root in this form, that means the wicket isn't ideal.
Jack Leach, back bowling to the kind of batsmen he prefers, was spinning the ball off the middle of the surface. Anderson had reverse swing (apparently he brings his clouds to Asia now). Bess struggling and Archer not finding inconsistent bounce didn't matter because the two main bowlers had the assistance they needed.
So with all this, it makes even less sense that Kohli could bat at this level. And I say this as someone who has seen Kohli be incredible again and again. When the potential big four emerged, I thought Kohli would be the best. I was there in Mohali when he played an incredible innings against Australia in a T20 game where he used a protractor and set square to win. I was there in Adelaide when he made his two hundreds. I have seen and written about many of his greatest innings and have probably seen Kohli bat in person at least 50 times. Plus countless others on TV. I already thought he was a genius; I already thought he was a great, and this is the best I have seen him bat.
Not his greatest innings, nor his most important or challenging, but I have never seen him be this in charge of his immense batting skills as today. The level of control in this situation is unheard of. Even when the tail came out and he changed gears.
Here, take a look at this.
This is where Kohli was standing because he wanted to keep the strike with the tail. But the interesting thing was how it wasn't rash, or panicked. He planned to walk over, and then was again, in complete control of his game when he was there. It looked like he was having a bet with a team mate in the nets that he could bat two foot outside off stump and not be dismissed.
That Virat Kohli is good isn't something new. This isn't his best innings in terms of importance to India. He's made others in tougher circumstances with all the bowlers firing. But he's doubtfully ever been this in control of his own gifts. And his talents are nuclear.
It was only 72 runs, in what was going to be a loss for most of the time he was out there, but purely from a technical standpoint, this was almost flawless. The ball that dismissed him rolled along the ground.
This innings of Virat Kohli was short and ultimately pointless. But it was also batting mastery. His wicket felt like a mistake, but certainly not one of his making.