The celebrations appeared muted by Virat Kohli’s standards after he reached the landmark. In fact, what mattered more to him was the relief of having broken the Test century drought after three years, three months and 17 days, and getting the monkey off his back.
Since the century in India’s first-ever pink-ball Test in November 2019 against Bangladesh at Eden Gardens, Kohli finally scored his first red-ball hundred (186) which was crucial to India’s sizeable 91-run lead over Australia on Day IV of the fourth and final Test in Ahmedabad.
Thanks to Kohli’s knock that comprised 15 fours and his 162-run sixth-wicket stand with the consistent Axar Patel (79), India’s first innings ended at 571 after resuming the penultimate day on 289/3. India were a batsman short as Shreyas Iyer’s lower-back pain kept him out, while he also had to undergo scans. Kohli and Axar’s partnership thus carries greater significance.
At stumps on Sunday, Australia were three without loss in their second innings, still trailing by 88 with Matthew Kuhnemann — sent ahead as night-watchman in place of regular opener Usman Khawaja — and Travis Head remaining unscathed in the six overs they had to face before the close of play.
Though the Motera pitch still looks to be holding together well, the pressure is more on Australia at present and a couple of early wickets on the final day could certainly brighten India’s prospects of a win, which would confirm their place in the World Test Championship final.
The pitch has certainly been a lot flatter compared to those of the previous three Tests. However, one cannot really take much away from Kohli and his unblinking concentration right through his 364-ball knock.
Throughout the first session on Sunday, Kohli didn’t get a single boundary. Precisely, his sixth boundary — with all the previous five hit on Day III — came only after his 28th Test century, which he brought up soon after lunch by working the ball past square leg off Lyon’s bowling. But not being to get even one four in the entire morning session hardly seemed to faze Kohli.
Scoring mostly through ones and twos to get to a much-awaited Test hundred, what stood out was Kohli’s grit and determination to not give his wicket away. Committing minimum unforced errors when well set used to be one prime feature of Kohli’s game during the time he was at his peak. That helped a great deal in his conversion rate, setting him apart from his contemporaries.
This knock, too, was one such where there was hardly any unforced error from this modern-day great, who also got some much-needed support from keeper-batter KS Bharat (44).
Nathan Lyon. File picture
■ A Test century for Virat Kohli (the 28th of his career) after 41 innings. It came after three years, three months and 17 days. His last Test hundred (his 27th) came in Calcutta — the 136 against Bangladesh on November 23, 2019.
■ Most 150+ scores for India
■ 20 — Tendulkar
■ 14 — Sehwag
■ 12 — SMG
■ 11 — Dravid/Kohli
■ Kohli’s five 100+ scores for India since September 2022:
■ 122 not out vs Afghanistan (Dubai) September 2022 (T20I)
■ 113 vs Bangladesh (Chittagong) December 2022 (ODI)
■ 113 vs Sri Lanka (Guwahati) January 2023 (ODI)
■ 166* v Sri Lanka (Trivandrum) January 2023 (ODI)
■ 186 v Australia (Ahmedabad) March 2023 (Test)
■ Kohli’s earlier highest Test score against Australia:
■ 169 in Melbourne in Dec 2014
■ The 65 overs from Nathan Lyon is the maximum he has bowled in an innings in his Test career. Previously he had bowled 64-5-194-2 at Galle in July 2022
■ India taking lead after Australia made 450+ runs batting first:
■ Australia 480, India 571: in Ahmedabad, 2023
■ Australia 478, India 495: in Bangalore, 2010
■ Australia 463, India 532: in Sydney, 2008
■ Australia 451, India 603/9d: in Ranchi, 2017