Du Plessis, later, missed the line of an Ishant delivery as the ball crashed his stumps to fall the ninth wicket of the hosts. Kohli had a false start in Tests but now has hit 21 centuries in his last 58 matches. Virat's 153-run knock came in 217 balls with 15 boundaries. And he did exactly that, as he drove, pulled, cut and flicked with utter disdain, even as the other batsmen found it hard to adapt to the twin pace of the wicket. These sort of numbers don't do any justice to the absolute mastery Kohli showed, but they illustrate how far above the pack he was.
Often criticised for being a global superstar who struggles to impact Test matches against quality opposition away from home, Kohli played with goal from ball one and immediately found the middle of the bat. He mixed caution with aggression and remained unbeaten on 85 at Stumps on Sunday, January 14. His footwork was decisive, his reading of the bowlers was impeccable, and his eye was forever on the lookout for where the next runs would come from.
South Africa profited with what could be crucial first innings runs through this period, before Rabada was superbly caught by, ironically, Pandya at deep mid-wicket as he attempted a hook off the excellent Ishant Sharma (3-46). "He led from the front and took charge of the game", he said.
"You've got a small little window with the new ball. It's okay, we never get too disappointed because there is still lot of play is left in the match".
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At lunch, India had reduced their first-innings gap to 48 runs, with Kohli and Ishant Sharma (zero) batting at the crease. That resulted in the stunning cover drive off Philander.
R Ashwin, who opened the bowling, kept the close-in fielders interested but could not manage a wicket. On a sluggish pitch where the bounce was often spongy, he timed the ball magnificently and pierced the gaps with the precision that only the truly great can summon up. Kagiso Rabada could tail the ball in and out at high speeds, but Kohli was prepared.
Rahul seemed in good touch but drove at a Morkel delivery without quite getting to the pitch of a ball that shaped in slightly.
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Kohli's 153 in an adverse situation saw him fighting the fires that threatened to consume the innings.
And as is his wont, he didn't hold back from emotions. Kohli continued playing that defensive shot to these balls that gets him into trouble on pitches that seam, but here he was good enough to middle them more often than not.
"Virat is very competitive", offered Morkel.
Interestingly, after his century in Sri Lanka and all-round exploits in the first Test against South Africa at Newlands, he was once again compared to the legendary Kapil Dev. "That's his nature. It gets him going and keeps him going". Usually at Centurion, the wickets are caught behind.
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