CENTURION – Virat Kohli’s 21st Test century lit up a gripping third morning of this second Sunfoil Test between India and South Africa.
The tourists reached 287/8 at lunch, with Kohli not out on 141 that has come off 193 balls and included 14 fours, while Ishant Sharma is still to get off the mark.
They currently trail by 48 runs.
The Indian captain was in sublime form, producing a batting masterclass that has kept India in touch in this match as they seek a way to tie the series ahead of the final Test in Johannesburg next week.
No one has looked in more control in any of the six innings played in this series than Kohli has here.
Secure in defence, he picked his moments perfectly to attack as well, all while cajoling his teammates to stick with him.
Only one of them did, with Ravi Ashwin backing up his four-wicket haul with the ball with a gutsy innings of 38 that frustrated the South Africans for more than an hour while also reducing the advantage the Proteas hold after they scored 335 in their first innings.
Ashwin and Kohli shared a partnership of 71 for the seventh wicket, with the former surviving a bruising over from Kagiso Rabada – in which he copped a blow on his left hand – and then took the attack to the World’s No 1 bowler, hitting him for three consecutive fours in the next over.
That counter-attack knocked Rabada off-kilter and the rest of that spell from the Hennops River End was a poor one, with far too many loose deliveries which both Indian batsmen cashed in on.
Kohli toyed with the South African fielders – in one instance, he played two stunning cut shots off Keshav Maharaj, one through point and the next just behind square on the offside.
He brought up his hundred with a flick to mid-wicket off Morné Morkel, and started celebrating before being shouted at by Hardik Pandya to run through for a second on account of an overthrow.
It was Kohli’s second century against South Africa – he made 119 at the Wanderers in the 2013 series – and will rank as one of the best of his career.
At the other end – Ashwin aside – there’s been little support.
WICKET!!! Massive celebrations from SA as Pandya is run out for 15. He fails to ground his bat or his foot as Philander sends in a direct hit. India 209/6 #ProteaFire #SAvIND #SunfoilTest pic.twitter.com/qk1Hvlzm4x
Pandya, somewhat hilariously, was run out when he casually strode back into his crease after being sent back by Kohli, with Vernon Philander – himself the victim of a somewhat comical run out in this match – hitting the stumps directly with Pandya’s foot in the air.
The Proteas took the new ball in the 82nd over, and there was success virtually immediately, with Du Plessis hanging on to a sharp chance at second slip to end Ashwin’s innings.
The slips were standing really close for Philander, adding to the difficulty of the catch.
In the next over, Morkel had Mohammed Shami caught by Hashim Amla at first slip for one.