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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

For India, life and runs after Sachin
AP
Johannesburg, December 22, 2013
First Published: 09:04 IST(22/12/2013)
Last Updated: 10:01 IST(22/12/2013)
Virat Kohli (L) watches as Cheteshwar Pujara (R) celebrates his century during their 2nd innings on the third day of the first Test match against South Africa at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg. (AP Photo)

It took one Test for India to realise there is life - and runs - after the great Sachin Tendulkar.

Virat Kohli made 119 from Tendulkar's former No.4 spot in the first innings of the first Test against South Africa. Cheteshwar Pujara stroked a superb 153 from No.3 in the second innings. And Kohli added another 96 in their double-century partnership on Saturday, only just missing out on becoming the first player to make two centuries in a test at Johannesburg's Wanderers.

Tendulkar, cricket's leading run-scorer, retired after a glittering 24-year career in November, yet India has two youngsters who have immediately stepped up.

The outstanding performances from Kohli and Pujara, both 25, also came in unfamiliar territory as Kohli scored his first hundred in South Africa and Pujara went big for his first ton outside India.

They shared a 222-run partnership on Friday and Saturday that put India in total charge of the series-opener against the top-ranked South Africans and made the tourists favorite to take the lead in the short 2-Test series.

Read: SA finish at 138/2 on Day 4, trail by 320 to set up exciting last day in 1st Test

"It's always good," Pujara said of his relationship with Kohli.

"We have played many innings together now and communication is also very good. I think we have got a very good record because we are almost the same age and whenever you want to pass on any information, or whenever you want to chat about something, it becomes easier."

India's tour to South Africa came straight after Tendulkar's retirement, ending more than two decades with the Little Master anchoring the Test batting lineup. The Indians were soon under pressure on the quick, bouncy tracks in South Africa when they lost the first two one-day games by big margins.

Yet in the opening Test - on one of the country's paciest pitches - the youngsters have proved they also have the grit and the attacking flair to dominate the world's best bowlers in their own conditions.

South Africa bowling coach Allan Donald compared Kohli's century on a fiery Wanderers pitch on the first day as reminiscent of Tendulkar at his pugnacious and skilful best.

Pujara's 153 showed similar signs of great potential as the pair battered the Proteas quicks for 175 in a session late on Friday during their game-changing second-innings stand. Exasperated, South Africa bowler Vernon Philander simply said "hats off to them" after Test cricket's most fierce attack was tamed.

It's easy for Indian cricket followers to recall Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid at the top of the batting order when they see young Kohli and Pujara, who have done much in the space of one match to suggest India has found another lasting combination.

"It's too early to say because we still have to prove a lot," Pujara said.

"It's still a very good start for us. We still can take very good confidence out of it and learn from whatever we can from this match and then carry it forward from this."

Read: Pujara and Kohli, charting their own course to legacy


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