By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Dec 18, 2013
Walking into the big shoes of Sachin Tendulkar at No 4, Virat Kohli announced his arrival at the spot with a sparkling ton on Day One of the first Test against South Africa at Wanderers, Johannesburg. India survived tough moments early on after winning the toss and electing to bat first, they are 255 for five. One would say that the game is very much in the balance as South Africa haven’t dominated the way one would have expected them to.
India opted to play Ajinkya Rahane instead of Ravindra Jadeja. Also, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Zaheer Khan formed their pace attack. South Africa chose Imran Tahir instead of the extra fast-bowler.
Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay were watchful early on as Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander got the ball to move and climb. Vijay was positive with his footwork and was getting forward to defend and play deliveries. There were a few that he poked at, but he was largely safe. He got things going in the first over when he punched a full delivery back past Steyn for a four.
Meanwhile, Dhawan had some short treatment in store. He was getting into his elements as he worked a few singles and then smashed one through the leg-side for four as the bowler strayed on his pads. However, Steyn came on to bowl in the tenth over and unleashed a barrage of short ones. Dhawan tentatively pulled one, but it went into the boundary between the gap on the leg-side. The next ball climbed and Dhawan had trouble keeping it down. But, then Steyn had his man at last as Dhawan pulled a short one into the hands of Imran Tahir at fine-leg.
Vijay too had his testing moments once Morne Morkel came into bowl. On one occasion, he couldn’t keep a rising delivery down, but Hashim Amla couldn’t come across from short-leg to complete the catch. Pujara walked in at No 3 and looked assured against the bounce. At one end, Morkel was in the midst of a great spell and didn’t give anything away. After a few shortish deliveries to Vijay, he pushed one forward and Vijay drove at it without any foot movement. It took the edge and AB de Villiers completed the catch.
Then came the moment many waited for. Kohli walked in at No 4. India’s generation next was in the centre battling the fierce pace attack. Both surveyed the bounce and the testing conditions, although they had a few scares. An edge off Pujara landed short of Graeme Smith at first slip. Kohli tried to withdraw his bat to a short one, but inadvertently managed to guide it over the slip cordon for a four. The next ball took the inside edge and missed the leg-stump by a whisker.
However, there were a few shots that showed confidence. Pujara cracked one through the off-side and Kohli got off the mark by pulling a short one for four with disdain.
Kohli and Pujara started the second session a little cautiously as they were getting their eye in again. Kohli, in particular, looked in great touch and was ready to punish anything. He maintained a very good scoring rate. After a circumspect start, he got things going with a boundary off Philander through the off-side.
Steyn was trying to unsettled Pujara by continuously chaging from over to round the wicket. The tactic didn’t quite work in the only over it was tried as Pujara played it calmly. Later, when Steyn pitched it short to Kohli, he pulled it with good control to the square-leg boundary for four. Imran Tahir was targeted by Kohli and whenever he pitched short, he was carted to mid-wicket for four. Kohli got to his half-century in that manner. He also drove him through the covers for four when he over-pitched it.
However, Pujara was dismissed when Kohli dabbed Tahir to the leg side and set-off. Pujara had nearly reached the striker’s end when Kohli sent him back. By then, it was too late and Pujara was run-out for 25.
Rohit joined Kohli in the centre and the latter had a few jitters while running. On one occasion, Rohit sent him back and the incoming throw took Kohli’s bat and went for four overthrows.
But, Kohli looked in magnificent form and was in touch. Steyn and Kallis were gracefully punched down the ground to pick boundaries as he now looked in his zone. Anything that was short and in the area, Kohli swiveled to pull it. At the stroke of tea, Rohit was caught behind and Rahane walked out to the centre. He announced himself with three boundaries to get into his stride.
As India resumed the evening session at 164 for four, all eyes were on Kohli as he was nearing his ton. As he moved into the 90s, there was a bit of a buzz around the ground. JP Duminy was brought into the attack and Kohli cut him behind point to move to 98. He then worked one to the leg-side and ran two to complete a ton in his first innings on South African soil.
Rahane too moved along well as he was stroking the bad deliveries. Kohli was finally dismissed for 119 when he spooned a catch to cover off Kallis. Dhoni and Rahane then saw India off till the end of the day’s play. The new ball was taken, but Rahane countered it well and also managed to essay a few classy strokes. At the end of day’s play, Rahane is unbeaten on 43 and Dhoni is on 17.
India 255 for 5 (Kohli 119, Ajinkya Rahane 43*; Dale Steyn 1 for 56, Vernon Philander 1 for 55, Morne Morkel 1 for 27, Jacques Kallis 1 for 37) vs South Africa.
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