It's rare that cricket fans witness the ultimate bowler-versus-batsman duel where both players are at their peak. The gold standard for such battles would be Harold Larwood versus Don Bradman, the rivalry that spawned Bodyline.
I've had the good fortune to witness a couple of the best in this category: first, Dennis Lillee versus Viv Richards and then Shane Warne up against Sachin Tendulkar. As you would expect with players of the highest class, the honours were about even in those battles, with all protagonists experiencing moments of superiority.
Fans are currently enjoying another tilt of the highest quality in the battle between Jimmy Anderson and Virat Kohli. In 2014, Kohli experienced a run drought in England and Anderson was the undoubted victor in those tussles.
However at Edgbaston, Kohli, with a little assistance from the butter-fingered English slip fielders, prevailed. That's not to say that Kohli dominated Anderson but he found a way to survive - and then prosper - which is an achievement against the master swing bowler.
Anderson is the best swing bowler I've seen. For lateness of swing and ability to move it both ways with minimal change of action and consistency over a long career, he is unsurpassed. I witnessed first-hand Bob Massie's incredible debut at Lord's in 1972, where he swung the ball prodigiously both ways to collect a staggering eight wickets in each innings. Massie's performance in that match was a remarkable example of controlled late movement through the air; Anderson achieves that level of proficiency pretty much every time he bowls in England.
His run-up and action are athletically smooth, and for metronomic repetition Glenn McGrath would be his only challenger.
So for Kohli to be confronted by a champion bowler in favourable conditions and score 200 runs for the match at Edgbaston, without conceding his wicket to Anderson, was a mighty achievement. Although Kohli was hampered by injury at Lord's, he still resisted Anderson's challenge but the impression was - much like Bradman in his Bodyline battle with Larwood - that Anderson's presence had a profound effect on Kohli's eventual dismissals.
"Anderson will be just one of many challenges that Kohli faces in the next few weeks. There's also the not-so-minor matter of finding the right words to inspire his fellow batsmen so that they make a far greater contribution for the rest of the series"
The difference between Kohli and the three aforementioned batsmen is the supporting cast. Bradman - not that he required it - was surrounded by one of Australia's best ever top-order line-ups. Richards was the star in a glittering West Indies batting order, and Tendulkar for much of his career had a similar pride of place in a strong Indian line-up.
Currently Kohli is fighting a lone hand against a suddenly rampant England attack, and that allows the bowlers the luxury of expending the bulk of their energy in seeking his wicket.
If Kohli continues to be plagued by back problems, he will have to discern what limitations this places on his batting and then adapt while trying to thwart a top-class seam attack. As if he doesn't already have enough challenges there's also the not-so-minor matter of finding the right words to inspire his fellow batsmen so that they make a far greater contribution for the rest of the series. Anderson will be just one of many challenges that Kohli faces in the next few weeks.
Prior to reaching the UK, India had a glorious opportunity to defeat two heavyweights in England and Australia in consecutive away Test series. Had they done so, it would have been a laudable achievement. Now Kohli's team are in danger of not only wilting tamely against England but also of providing a depleted Australian team with a confidence boost, to the point where they will feel their chances of victory at home have greatly improved. If India were to lose both series, it would be a bookable offence.
The next few months will be a defining period in Kohli's captaincy career. He has already shown on many occasions that he's a master batsman; if he can resurrect this Indian team and find a way to thwart Anderson and his English cohorts, then it will go down as an example of masterful leadership.