All the focus will be on Virat Kohli and his century against South Africa in the first Test in Johannesburg, and rightly so. He scored at a quick pace and the ton came while batting at No 4. But India’s position still is not a comfortable one. Shrikant Shankar feels that things could have been better for MS Dhoni’s men as they lost a couple of wickets too many.
The main focus of India’s post-Sachin Tendulkar era was always going to be how well the new No 4 batted. It was never going to be whether India would win the Test series, only the person who was going to take on the mantle and pressure of batting at Tendulkar’s position. While there was never any doubt that it was going to be Virat Kohli, who would have batted at No 4, there was the small matter of performing in a crunch situation. Kohli’s masterful century on Day One of the first Test against South Africa eased some nerves. The century was sheer class.
He started off slowly, but attacked leg-spinner Imran Tahir to race to 32 off 32 quickly. Graeme Smith was forced to bowl his main three pacers more regularly, and this in-turn tired them out by the end of the day’s play. Kohli displayed an array of fine strokes and looked completely at ease against the world’s best fast-bowling attack. He struck 18 fours in an innings of 119 from 181 balls. He led India’s charge nicely and looked set for a really big score. But that is where the Indian team missed a trick.
India are at 255 for five at stumps on Day One. They could have easily lost a few wickets lesser as some of the shots were avoidable to which they get out. Shikhar Dhawan was worked out well and was out for 13. Murali Vijay too looked unsettled and was out for six. Then came the mix-up that could prove to be very costly. Cheteshwar Pujara was needlessly run out for 25, ending a 89-run partnership with Kohli. The mistake was largely down to Kohli’s judgement of a single and in the end, India lost a chance of two batsmen getting big scores.
Then Rohit Sharma also got out only minutes before the tea interval for 14. He played a risky drive to a length delivery from Vernon Philander and edged it to AB de Villiers behind the wickets. Kohli himself played a loose shot to throw his wicket away at a crucial juncture in the innings. While Ajinkya Rahane (43) and MS Dhoni (17) remained unbeaten at stumps, one got the feeling that the Indian score could have been a lot better. The pitch has a bit of uneven bounce, but if one gets their eye in, they can make it count and score some runs. That is why India would feel that they could have done much better than they actually have.
At the same time, the South African bowlers also would not be very happy with their performance. They started off brightly, but in the end, it were the Indian batsmen throwing their wickets away rather than the South African bowlers taking them. They bowled too short at times, and let the Indian batsmen settle in. In the end, it is the South African bowlers who will be the more satisfied bunch as India have lost half their side. The pitch is good enough for a score of at least 350 to 400 in the first innings. So, the remaining Indian batsmen need to bat really well to get there. But for now, they will be disappointed with their show.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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