Kohli shines but India folds for 223; Rabada takes four

In these conditions, Virat Kohli reserved his best. His 79 of character sparkled in India’s total of 223 after the side elected to bat.

Virat Kohli displayed enormous self-restraint during his masterful 79 on day one.   -  AFP

Batting was challenging. There was a cloud cover, the pitch sported grass, and the surface offered seam movement and bounce.

In these conditions, Virat Kohli reserved his best. His 79 of character sparkled in India’s total of 223 after the side elected to bat.

India hit back with Jasprit Bumrah, who moved the ball across the left-handed Dean Elgar to have him caught at first slip.

At stumps on day one of the third Freedom Test at Newlands on Tuesday, South Africa was 17 for one. The decider on the boil.   

Kohli walked in early, at 33 for two, after the fall of Mayank Agarwal’s wicket in the 13th over and was the ninth batter dismissed at 211 when Kagiso Rabada snared him outside off.

Kohli began by cover-driving left-armer Marco Jansen. He did not desert a shot that has given him so many runs. Kohli, however, was conscious about which deliveries to play the stroke. 

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The match-up between Kohli and Rabada, in his 50th Test, was fascinating. Rabada fired one inches outside off, Kohli left it alone.

When Rabada pitched it up, Kohli cover-drove, when he erred in line, Kohli worked him off his hips.

Imperious innings

Kohli’s game had footwork, balance and timing - the three key ingredients that define batting.

And the manner Kohli leaned into his off and cover drives, executed the on drive, essayed the flick and drove the ball straight was exemplary.

He defended with assurance and found the gaps with a surgeon’s precision.

India was jolted at the start. K.L. Rahul, made to play deliveries a lot closer to his off-stump, succumbed to a Duanne Olivier ball that landed short and bounced around his off-stump.

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Rabada, bowling a teasing line, got Mayank Agarwal to edge one around the off-stump to the cordon.

Mayank gets opened up by these deliveries, and being side-on will give him a better chance of negotiating these balls.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Kohli began rebuilding the innings.

Pujara, mixing caution with aggression, held firm. Between periods of solid defence, he pulled Olivier past the ropes and then flicked and glanced Lungi Ngidi for boundaries.

It took some smart bowling from Jansen after lunch to end Pujara’s (43) determined tenure. The versatile left-armer switched to round the wicket and brought the delivery into right-hander with the angle.

Ajinkya Rahane did not last long, done in by a fuller delivery from Rabada that held its line and found the edge. Interestingly, Rahane reviewed, but replays confirmed the nick.

Improved show

Rishabh Pant gave Kohli support and applied himself. The conversation the team management had with him appeared to have worked.

The southpaw was not strokeless but batted more responsibly. A back-footed punch through covers and a pull off Rabada stood out.

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Pant (27) added 51 valuable runs with Kohli for the fifth wicket when he, attempting to glide a Jansen delivery of extra bounce, ended up playing into a wide gully’s hands.

R. Ashwin did not last long, edging a delivery angled across from Jansen. If you ‘feel’ for these balls, you are in trouble.

Left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, finally seeing some action, had Shardul Thakur, taken low by Keegan Petersen at short cover. Replays confirmed the catch was clean.

The Indian innings was wrapped up soon. In his milestone Test, the reliable Rabada scalped four. And the impressive Jansen took three.  

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