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Virat Kohli has decided to bat first at Indore AFP

When Virat Kohli tapped the ball for a single and ran for the single while batting on 99, Indian fans had their hearts in the mouth as the fielder collected it cleanly and shattered the stumps on Kohli’s end. Kohli had a timid smile on his face as he began to celebrate his first ton of the series but had to put brakes on his celebration as the decision was referred to the third umpire. Kohli ran his heart out and put in the big dive to reach the landmark and who could have stopped him after showing immense dedication right from the outset at Indore. The big screen at the stadium attracted each and every eyeball present at the venue and everyone were on their feet to see if Kohli was safe or not? Moments later, the decision came, which was rightly not out as they whole crowd erupted in joy and the level of anticipation was finally calmed down. Kohli celebrated his first ton of the series and also the first one at home since March 2013 with extreme joy. He also acknowledged Sanjay Bangar for helping him work on his technique in the nets by doing a ball throwing gesture out at the centre. Live cricket scorecard: India vs New Zealand, 3rd Test

Indian Test skipper is a man who prefers to lead with example but had failed to do so in the series so far. He kept on getting out while playing loose shots and often gifted his wicket away to the opposition. In fact, this is also the first ton of the series by any batsman. He has been in an incredible form against the white ball but didn’t do anything substantial since the double ton against West Indies at North Sound. This outing will certainly enhance his confidence and help him fare well in the remainder of the season.

Winning the toss, India rightly opted to bat first with Murali Vijay, Gautam Gambhir starting the proceedings for the side. Gambhir looked in some supreme touch as he dealt in boundaries and held nothing back. He offered a shot to anything, which was in his zone. His back-to-back sixes to Matt Henry early on in the in the innings corroborates the belief. But soon Murali Vijay and moments later Gambhir walked back to the pavilion.

Kohli had a task in his hand to weather the early storm and sail the Indian ship out of troubled waters. He was under pressure as the Indian top-order has been slightly out of touch in the recent outings. But Kohli soaked in all the pressure only to come out in flying colours. On his third ball, Kohli played an exquisite cover drive for a boundary and gave a glimpse of his dedication. He looked determined right from ball 1 and left no margin for error. He bid his time at the pitch, which didn’t have much of a lateral movement for the bowlers to assist. Cheteshwar Pujara floundered after a good start but Kohli stood there like a rock. His application was remarkable and played a watchful innings when his team needed him the most.

Jeetan Patel was getting the ball to turn and got the better of Pujara with a beauty. Pujara got a good start but got stuck in between to one from Patel as the red cherry kissed his off-stump. Kohli confronted the spin with unparalleled confidence and some immaculate footwork. Initially, he had some trouble as he edged one on to his pads but soon got his eyes in and looked set. Kohli’s approach against spin is something, which every budding talent should take a leaf from. He made the utmost use of the depth of the crease when the ball was pitched fraction short and leaned forward when the ball was there to be driven or defended. His front foot was getting to the pitch of the ball and tried to play with a straight bat inside the ‘V’. Kohli’s head, which is also the the heaviest part of the body was still and eyes on the ball like a hawk.

Kohli was watchful against the pacers, he knew his team wanted him to score big and did a good job in curbing his natural instincts. In the first Test at Kanpur, he got out while playing a pull shot to Neil Wagner at deep square leg. Kohli is a natural puller of the ball but didn’t go for it while he was new at the crease.

Kiwi pacers did test him with some short pitched deliveries but he let it go while he was still new at the crease. Later, he pulled at will and garnered some valuable boundaries.

Kohli went on to score his maiden ton at home as a captain and steered India to a dominating position. He stitched a match-winning partnership along with Ajinkya Rahane as they duo accounted for 167 runs for the fourth wicket and bailed India out of crisis. Rahane struggled against the short pitched deliveries while Kohli played well after bidding his time at the crease. The elegant right-handed batsman was out while playing a short delivery in the second innings of the Kolkata Test and got a reprieve when he top-edged one from Trent Boult while batting on seven. But Kohli was astute in his approach and placed his innings with perfection.

The ball is now in India’s court as they were well placed at 267 for the loss of three wickets at stumps on Day 1 with a well set Rahane and Kohli alive at the crease. Both the batsmen will look to pile massive runs on Day 2 and help India achieve a mammoth total and further put more pressure on the visitors. The stage is set, the platform has been laid for the the likes of Rohit Sharma, Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja to come out and express themselves. In fact, India could well post the highest innings total of the series so far. With every outing, Kohli continues to grow in stature and with him in form the future of Indian cricket is certainly in safe hands.

(Suraj Choudhari is a reporter with Criclife and CricketCountry. He is an avid follower of the game, and plays the sport at club level. He has a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, and tries to express it through paper and pen.)