Opinion: What does the 100 against South Africa say about Kohli, the batsman?
India is slightly behind going into day four despite Kohli`s innings and two early wickets from opening bowler Jasprit Bumrah, but they could just feel that they were still in with a chance of levelling the three-match series.
The pressure on Virat Kohli before he set foot in South Africa for the Test and limited over series was immense. He was expected to not just lead the team well but also to prove his batting mettle on difficult conditions. After all, a lot of questions had been raised on Kohli’s Test batting after his failure to perform against Australia earlier this year and when he had been horribly unsuccessful in England in 2014. A notion had been developed that Kohli struggles against quality fast bowling and on difficult pitches in the longer format.
Kohli faced twin failures with the bat in the first Test against South Africa at Cape Town. As the ball was moving around prodigiously, it made matters worse for Kohli. India lost the game and Kohli’s poor batting show was a cause of concern among Indian fans and brought him a lot of mocking from cricket fans of other countries on social media.
The task was cut out for Virat Kohli, the batsman.
Kohli’s magnificent 153 in the second Test of the series at Centurion has yet again established the batting genius he is. It was one of the finer knocks of his Test career and showed that when he gets going, Kohli can be the best in the world.
After South Africa had piled on 335 in the first innings of the match, the pressure was on India to respond with aplomb. However, apart from Kohli, hardly any of the other batsmen could manage to stay around for long.
Kohli, though, seemed to be batting on a completely different pitch altogether. He played with confidence and did not let the pressure get to him. Striking the ball gorgeously through the covers and flicking and driving with élan, Kohli brought up his 21st Test hundred in spectacular fashion.
The unevenness of the pitch and South Africa’s posse of fast bowlers did not throttle Kohli down. Even as the wickets fell around him, Kohli kept scoring at a brisk rate and managed the strike superbly well to keep India in the hunt. Had Kohli not put his head down and shaped this beautiful knock under pressure, India would certainly have conceded more than a 100-run lead. But Kohli’s innings ensured that India now has a chance to remain competitive in the game.
The Indian captain led from the front by scoring half of India’s runs and nullified all the plans the South African pacers had for him. They bowled tight channels outside off and tried to drag him wide. But Kohli found a way and kept milking the bowling throughout with great confidence.
Kohli’s century was the first of the series and given the array of batting talent on display on both sides, this shows how valuable a knock this has been. He was the last man out for India and was dismissed for a glorious 153 off 217 balls with 15 sparkling hits to the fence. He single-handedly brought India from a precarious 164-5 to a very respectable 307 – just 28 runs behind South Africa’s first innings score.
It remains to be seen what course this match takes now. But Kohli’s defining century has certainly been a game-changing one for India and has given them a sliver of a hope for a comeback win.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL).