Virat Kohli steadies the ship after India’s rocky start

2013-12-18 15:50

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India: 164/4 (Virat Kohli 84*, Cheteshwar Pujara 25, Morkel 1/18, Steyn 1/36)

Virat Kohli ensured that India were on equal terms with the hosts at the tea break with a superbly crafted innings on the first day of his first Test match in South Africa.

But Rohit Sharma’s wicket was a crucial loss for India just before tea.

India should still have been only two wickets down, but a bad call saw Cheteshwar Pujara being run out by Imran Tahir at the Golf Course end.

Their 89-run partnership was of hard graft, especially in the face of superb fast bowling by the South African pace attack. From the depths of 24/2, it was a much needed buffer on a track that seemed to even out as the day progressed.

It justified MS Dhoni’s decision to bat first despite the inexperience of his top four. It was the kind of reassuring session India needed after a difficult first hour. In the post-lunch session batting looked easy to a point where the Wanderers was more like the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore in pitch behaviour.

Kohli showed no nerves – unlike Shikhar Dhawan, who perished to a Dale Steyn short ball barrage. He provided a lesson in getting into line and being selective in which balls to go after. While Pujara sought to tough it out before his unfortunate run-out, Kohli drove, pulled and cut the Proteas’ attack.

There were no signs of rustiness, especially after they were robbed of crucial match practice after the practice game against the South African Invitational XI in Benoni over the weekend was washed out.

He definitely showed the hallmarks of being India’s next batting great. A century at India’s favourite ground in South Africa would elevate him to the class of Rahul Dravid, who made his maiden test century at this ground in early 1997.

For India to post a significant first innings total, Kohli will have to do the same, but it is definitely not beyond his reach.

Then there was Sharma’s impetuous waft at a Vernon Philander away swinger that could hurt India in the long run as it gave the Proteas a foothold in a session that belonged to India.

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