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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

India vs South Africa: Record-breaker Virat Kohli puts India on top in second Test

IND vs SA: On Day 2 in Pune, there was nothing to do but watch Kohli as he smashed his personal best of 254 not out, declaring selflessly, almost self-effacingly, with India on 601 for 5.

cricket Updated: Oct 11, 2019 21:08 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Pune
Virat Kohli raises his bat after scoring 254 runs during the second India-South Africa test match in Pune.
Virat Kohli raises his bat after scoring 254 runs during the second India-South Africa test match in Pune.(PTI)
         

There was not much South Africa could do against Virat Kohli than watch in awe (and perhaps shock) on Friday. Here was Kohli at his absolute, regal best. A king in beast mode. A heavyweight fighter battering his hapless opponent to submission. It was beautiful to watch. It was painful to watch. It was exhilirating and gritty in equal measure. Here was Kohli on show at maximum: his tremendous appetite for runs, his ruthless competitive edge, his ability to adapt, accelerate, and dominate.

On Day 2 in Pune, there was nothing to do but watch Kohli as he smashed his personal best of 254 not out, declaring selflessly, almost self-effacingly, with India on 601 for 5. Going by the way he was middling the ball when he declared—he went from 200 to 250 in 39 balls—he could have easily had a go at his maiden triple century. Nonetheless, records tumbled.

READ | Kagsio Rabada, Quinton de Kock involved in heated exchange on Day 2 of Pune Test – Watch

Kohli’s innings was an exhibition in how to negotiate tough periods and then capitalise. If the final assault was breathtaking for the stroke production, the defensive mechanism that Kohli adapted to survive the moving ball made for equally intriguing watching.

First, he built a base with the solid Ajinkya Rahane (59, eight fours) in a partnership of 178, before going berserk in the company of the attacking Ravindra Jadeja (91 off 104, 8 fours, 2 sixes). The second session was all fireworks; Kohli smashed 90 runs off 103 balls and went on to add a thrilling 225 off 237 balls with the left-handed Jadeja.

MILESTONES MAN

With each run on Day 2, the dashing batsman was eliciting comparisons with the greatest names of the game—he crossed 7000 runs to move past the greatest of all time, Don Bradman’s run tally. With his seventh double hundred he bettered Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag as the India batsman with the most double hundreds. As captain, he now has the most 150-plus scores in Test cricket.

Of all the milestones he crossed during the innings, personally for Kohli, the one he himself maybe keen about is pulling equal with contemporary Steve Smith in the hundreds tally with his 26th century.

With the two locked in the battle for the mantle of the No1 batsman in the world, comparisons are inevitable. The Pune crowd have a first-hand experience of the most-talked about rivalry in world cricket. In the two Tests hosted at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium so far, while Kohli has dominated the second, Smith had stolen the limelight in the first game back in 2017.

Lucky (though try telling that to the fans struggling with the sun in this mostly shade-less venue).

READ | Virat Kohli surpasses Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag for record double hundreds

CLASSICAL APPROACH

There’s little to choose between the two in terms of ability, but Kohli is easier on the eye because of his classical style of play. In this innings again, he was a treat to watch. His footwork was precise. He stuck tenaciously to his plan of playing along the ground.

Out of his seven double centuries, five were reached without sixes. Both his sixes on Friday came after the 200-run mark. Talk about mental discipline and trusting your skills.

It was in complete contrast to the approach of all the other batsmen who have got hundreds in this series, led by the aerial assaults of Rohit Sharma, Dean Elgar and Mayank Agarwal in the first Test. Kohli simply stuck to his strengths, and played from the crease. The first six of his innings was on 202, that too on the backfoot off a long hop from left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy.

When Rabada and Vernon Philander bowled at him early on in the day, a fascinating battle ensued. It was a hard grind against fast, accurate bowling with movement off the pitch in the first hour. Every run was hard earned. Kohli edged thrice, but the ball dropped short of the cordon. The conditions were not easy, but anything that offered the chance to play a stroke, Kohli grabbed. Make no mistake, this was a difficult innings for India’s captain.

That the pitch was lively was made evident the moment South Africa came out to bat after their never-ending and demoralizing day on the field.

READ | ‘The top two will be...’: Kohli rates his 7 double tons in Test cricket

Their top three were back in the pavilion quickly and the fourth wicket pair just about survived the hostile spell from the Indian pacers.

Talking about the impact of Kohli’s innings, Mayank Agarwal, the other centurion of the India innings, said it has given Indian an extra session to go for the kill.

“It has put us in driver’s seat and it’s not just the amount of runs but at what pace those runs have come that has made the difference,” he said after the day’s play. “It has given the team a extra session and half which becomes very crucial. The partnership between Virat and Jadeja was fabulous, almost run a-ball 230-odd. If you are looking to win games, then you want to have that time to get 20 wickets.”

BATTLE FOR NO1

In terms of grit and mental toughness, both Kohli and Smith would rate their innings at the MCA stadium highly. In the last Test played here, in 2017, Smith had completely overshadowed Kohli in batting and captaincy.

Up against R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on a viciously unpredictable and turning track, Smith had scored a second innings hundred to set up a memorable Australian victory. Captain Kohli had had a forgettable outing. To Smith’s 109 (202 balls), there was a two-ball duck in the first innings and 13 in the second for him as India were bowled out for totals of 105 and 107.

Also Read: Virat Kohli joins Fleming, Waugh and Cook in exclusive Test list with Pune double ton

On Friday, Kohli more than balanced that out. The double century will also come as a huge relief for Kohli after a sedate run this year—his last hundred in Tests came ten months ago at Perth. In the meantime, he has seen Smith make a triumphant return to international cricket after a one-year suspension and dethrone him from the top of the Test batsman’s rankings list.

Now the battle is on.

First Published: Oct 11, 2019 18:03 IST

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