Chennai ODI: Virat Kohli's century powers India to 299/8

Suresh Raina and Ajinkya Rahane also contributed with the bat, with the former scoring his first half-century since World Cup.

Virat Kohi celebrates his century at M.A. Chidambaram in Chennai.   -  THE HINDU

The inclusion of an extra bowler, albeit under compulsion, did not alleviate South Africa from the burden of a stiff total as a spirited, resourceful century from Virat Kohli and solid contributions from Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina took India to 299 for 8 at the end of their innings. Although the bowling unit began with discipline, the third-wicket partnership (104) between Kohli, batting at No. 3, and Rahane, at No. 4, shifted momentum. After the base of the structure had been built, Raina arrived to up the plundering, and thereby erased his bad run of form with an attacking half-century.

The South African compulsion, owing to injuries to Morne Morkel and JP Duminy, facilitated the presence of a second spinner in the South African attack in left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, and a fast-bowling all-rounder Chris Morris, to support Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir. Now that five-strong bowling unit has not been able to contain India, the sacrifice of a frontline batsman at No. 7 puts the top-order under added pressure.

However, the death bowling, which had been a point of discussion in the lead-up to this contest, by South Africa was expectedly effective. Rabada and Steyn gave away 17 runs off the last four overs of the innings. The crowd was left disappointed as M.S. Dhoni, who arrived in the 45th over, couldn’t muscle the short-of-a-length deliveries peppered into his body for fruitful boundaries. This comeback in the business end prevented India from crossing 300.

The fast bowlers began the innings equally effectively, with what seemed a purposeful intent of bowling without room outside off-stump, or the leverage of an overpitched delivery. Rohit looked typically dazzling in the three fours he stroked to the boundary, a flick shot and two pulls, before he was snaffled by Morris when he attempted another languid flick and was caught at short midwicket. His opening partner Shikhar Dhawan ended his insipid tenure in the middle by falling to the hook shot, caught by a diving wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.

By the 16th over, however, the momentum had started shifting. Thiry nine runs had been collected in the five previous overs then, and the introduction of the spinners helped Kohli and Rahane milk the bowling comfortably and not be tied down. The track, said to offer turn, was not significantly helpful to these spinners, and Kohli seemed to signify it by hitting all of his five sixes against these slower bowlers. The 18 overs from Tahir and Rabada yielded 109 runs.

The stand was broken against the tide by the rare width outside off stump provided by a fast bowler, Steyn. Rahane fished for the fast ball, and nicked behind.

Raina profited from some lapse in control by bowlers, towards the second half of the innings, after taking time to warm up. Overpitched deliveries from fast bowlers were duly dealt with. Before he got to his fifty, his first since the World Cup, Raina was dropped when he was on 46.

Kohli, his partner for the second century partnership of the innings, reached his century in the 38th over, with a six down the ground off Phangiso. Besides his authoritative boundaries, a trademark of this knock, his first century in Chennai, was aggressive running between the wickets. On a few occasions he escaped narrowly, having to put in the dive when the ball was hit to close-in fielders, but the intent helped him, and India, to give their bowlers a decent chance of leveling the series.

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