Johannesburg: Virat Kohli’s gritty 119 helped India reach 255 for five at the end of Day One of the first Test against South Africa at the New Wanderers Stadium here Wednesday.
After India’s dismal performance in the ODI series, the batsmen finally had something to cheer about as Kohli along with Cheteshwar Pujara (25) and Ajinkya Rahane (42 batting) showed some fight and determination in applying themselves.
Kohli was the only wicket to fall in the final session as India added another 100 runs to their score.
Kohli led India’s fightback after losing two early wickets. The 25-year-old curbed his natural instincts to attack and showed great patience. He was severe on anything short and along with Rahane strung together a 68-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
The duo looked like they would take India to a strong position but a lapse in concentration from Kohli saw him mishit a wide delivery from Jacques Kallis and lob a catch to J.P. Duminy in the covers.
South African pacers’ ploy of bowling well outside the off-stump finally worked but came as a surprise for many to see bowlers of the calibre of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel bowl so negatively.
Rahane and India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, then, combined well to negotiate the second new ball and take India to the end of the day’s play without any more mishaps.
Earlier, Pujara and Kohli survived the onslaught of speedsters Steyn and Morkel, taking India to 70/2 at lunch.
The promising Indian pair showed fight, braving a fiery spell after openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Murali Vijay (6) were sent packing in the first hour after Dhoni opted to bat in sunny conditions.
Steyn, once again, looked threatening from ball one before striking in his fifth over, using the short ball tactic to remove Dhawan.
Vijay too struggled against high quality pace. His 42-ball innings ended after he fished at a full length ball outside off stump with keeper Ab de Villiers doing the rest, giving Morkel his first wicket.
Kohli and Pujara dealt with the hostile attack in contrasting fashion. Pujara played the waiting game, scoring 18 off 61 balls while Kohli struck five fours.
The visitors put on 94 more runs in the second session but lost Pujara and Rohit Sharma (14) in the process. Kohli, on the other hand, raced away to an unbeaten 84 and was batting with Rahane (12 not out) when tea was called.
While Pujara was run out, Rohit (14) nicked a Vernon Philander delivery.
Meanwhile, Dhoni became the first Indian to captain in 50 Tests.