Kohli ton lifts cautious India

Virat Kohli (AFP)
Virat Kohli (AFP)
Johannesburg - A career-best 119 from Virat Kohli has completed the significant double on the opening day of the first Test between the Proteas and India at the Wanderers on Wednesday of scoring centuries in both his maiden Test series to Australia and South Africa.

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In terms of the problems nearly all Indian batsmen have had in the past in adapting to the bouncier pitches to be found in the southern hemisphere this was a key moment both for his own career and for Indian cricket generally.

The fact that he did it on the very day that he was installed as the successor to Sachin Tendulkar as India’s No. 4 added to the significance of the achievement.

He was eventually dismissed for a career best 119, having reached his fifth career Test century off 140 balls with 16 boundaries. In all he hit 18 boundaries, faced 181 balls and was at the crease for four-and-a-quarter hours. This followed the century he made at Adelaide last year.

He came to the crease with India under immense pressure at 24/2 after they had won the toss and first dug in to get his side through the difficult morning session and then took control in the afternoon when he contributed 52 to India scoring 94 for two during this period.

His partnership of 89 for the third wicket with Cheteshwar Pujara was the major one of the day and was ended by Kohli’s only blemish when he ran his partner out. It certainly paved the way for the subsequent partnerships including one of 68 for the fifth wicket between himself and Ajinkya Rahane which saw India reach 255/5 by the close of play.

What stood out about Kohli’s innings was his ability to pick the right balls to leave alone and to counter-attack strongly with an array of pulls and cuts, not to mention a couple of beautiful straight drives – the sign of a player in good form.

It took the wily old Jacques Kallis finally to tempt him to drive a ball well wide of the stumps to bring about his dismissal. Kallis again underlined his value as a back-up seamer and his final spell leading up to the second new ball that included the wicket of Kohli was a stand-out effort.

Morne Morkel was far away the pick of the Proteas attack, conceding only 27 runs in 19 overs. He deserved more than his one wicket as his line and length was impeccable throughout the day.

Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander also played their parts on a day on which there was hardly any lateral movement for the first day of a Wanderers Test match and only a limited amount of swing when the cherry was still ripe.

The big problem for the Proteas was that their two spin bowling options conceded 77 runs in 13 overs which meant that the three front-line seamers had to bowl 63 overs between them.

It is too early to tell who had the better of the first day. That will become clear once the Proteas have had their first turn at bat.

In the mean time India will be looking to get their total somewhere in excess of 350. They still have MS Dhoni and Rahane at the crease with Ashwin to follow and the first hour’s play on the second morning when the ball is still relatively new is going to be crucial.

Teams:

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, Imran Tahir.

India: Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni (captain), Ravichandran Ashwin, Zaheer Khan, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma.
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