| Ajinkya Rahane consoles Virat Kohli after the latter’s dismissal, on Wednesday |
Johannesburg: Virat Kohli gave ample display of his class by cracking a fluent 119 as a gritty India produced a decent batting show on the opening day of the first Test against South Africa.
The 25-year-old Kohli, batting at the coveted No.4 position left vacant by retired batting icon Sachin Tendulkar, notched up his fifth Test century to steer the visitors to a comfortable 255 for five at close on a bouncy Wanderers track. This was after Mahendra Singh Dhoni made a statement by deciding to bat on winning the toss.
Ajinkya Rahane (43 batting) and Dhoni (17 batting) were at the crease on an eventful opening day which saw the beleaguered Indian batting line-up give a good account of themselves despite their only warm-up game being abandoned due to a wet outfield.
Kohli stole the thunder as he displayed wonderful counter-attacking ability with dazzling array of strokes around the park after openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Murali Vijay (6) were dismissed cheaply by Dale Steyn (1/56) and Morne Morkel (1/27).
Kohli hit 18 sweetly timed boundaries in his 181-ball knock that lasted 257 minutes. The standout shot was a pull off the fast and furious Steyn. He played some flowing drives, and was severe on leg-spinner Imran Tahir, who was repeatedly pulled towards the deep mid-wicket boundary.
His shot selection was admirable as he was ready to leave a lot of deliveries but didn’t forget to punish the loose balls.
Kohli reached his fifth Test hundred when he turned Jean-Paul Duminy’s delivery towards mid-wicket for a couple before celebrating with a leap and punch of his fists in the air.
As he took charge of taking on the Proteas attack, he was well complemented by Cheteshwar Pujara (25). The pair added 89 runs for the third wicket before Pujara was unfortunately run-out due to a horrible mix-up.
Rahane, playing only his second Test, also showed good temperament during their fifth-wicket stand of 68 as the young Mumbai batsman grew in confidence.
Kohli was finally out caught at covers off Kallis’ bowling. Each bowler of the South African pace quartet got a wicket each.
After Kohli’s dismissal, Dhoni walked in, and negated the second new ball well, putting up 36 with Rahane for the unbroken sixth wicket stand.
Rahane hit seven fours during his 105-ball knock with the best shot being a cover drive off Steyn.
Apart from Steyn and Morkel, Vernon Philander (1/45) and Jacques Kallis (1/37) got a wicket apiece. The spin duo gave away 77 runs in 13 overs between them.
Kohli was given ample support in the final session of the day by Rahane, who didn’t want to waste this chance. Kohli’s century came off 140 balls with 16 hits to the fence.
In good batting conditions, the two were watchful in the first hour after tea, not wanting to lose any more wickets. There were a couple of played and missed chances, particularly against Morkel, who bowled his heart out with only a solitary wicket to show.
After reaching his century, Kohli slowed down a bit. Rahane though kept up the tempo and together they brought up their 50-run partnership in the 71st over.
It might have the final drinks break of the day that caused a break in Kohli’s concentration as he was out caught by Duminy, playing a loose drive off Kallis.
He looked tired after a mammoth effort, walking off to the cheers from the sparse crowd and from the Indian dressing room.