Delhi Test, Day 3: Kohli, Rahane put India on top

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane stretched India's lead to 403 in the second innings at the end of Day Three. India, who have already sealed the series with wins in the first and third Tests, had bowled out the top-ranked tourists for 121 after making 334 in the first innings.

Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane rescued India from a precarious 57 for 4 in the second innings, and have put on 133 so far.   -  AP

Morne Morkel took three top-order wickets to leave India stuttering in the early half of the day.   -  AP

The Feroz Shah Kotla has witnessed some firsts in the Freedom Series. On the third day of the fourth and final Test, the decently-filled Kotla saw the first century partnership in four matches, thanks to diligent efforts from Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane, as India tightened the noose around South Africa by inflating their lead to a mammoth 403 runs.

Also, for the first time in four matches, a Test is certain to see the fourth day's action. It is a pleasant variation considering that the last five Tests played on Indian soil, barring the one in Bangalore last month, have ended inside three days.

India benefitted from an unfinished 133-run stand between their captain Kohli (83 batting) and Rahane (52 batting) to post 190 for four in their second innings and virtually push the touring side out of the contest.

When the host started their second essay after securing a first innings lead of 213 runs, they faced the challenge of negotiating the spirited South African pacers in the conducive morning conditions. Under the leadership of an incisive Morne Morkel, the visitors bowled to a good plan. Morkel and Kyle Abbott stuck to an impressive line and length and enjoyed whatever movement they got off the surface.

India suffer double blow

Morkel dealt a double blow in his fourth over. The lanky pacer claimed Murali Vijay's wicket with an accurate bouncer with wicketkeeper Dane Vilas jumping high to complete a smart catch. An unhappy Vijay indicated that the ball might have brushed his elbow guard.

In the very next delivery, Morkel hit a perfect length to rattle Rohit Sharma's stumps. His lazy foot work left Rohit disappointed as the Mumbai batsman, who was promoted to No. 3, again failed to realise his potential in the longer form.

The circumspect pair of Shikhar Dhawan (21) and Cheteshwar Pujara (28) showed a lot of pragmatism to hang in there. Dhawan adapted well by curtailing his shots. Pujara also showed patience as the slow pitch with low bounce made strokeplay a difficult task.

The two added 45 runs in about 23 overs before the South African bowlers returned with renewed vigour. In the third over of the middle period, Morkel, bowling round the wicket, bamboozled birthday boy Dhawan with a stunning yorker and spoilt his hopes of getting a good score in his first Test in his backyard. In the following over, Pujara lost his off-stump to Imran Tahir as India were reduced to 57 for four.

The situation was similar to that of the first innings, where India were 66 for three, and the Kohli-Rahane duo was again up to the task of rescuing the home side.

Kohli survived a scare when he saw Tahir overstepping on the television screen after umpire Bruce Oxenford had given him caught behind. A sulking Kohli, making no effort to hide his displeasure by staying out in the crease, overcame that episode to fight a bigger battle along with the man-in-form Rahane.

The test this time was tougher, though, as the Proteas bowlers sustained pressure for a longer period of time. Making the old ball deviate prodigiously with the help of some reverse swing, the penurious Morkel looked unplayable at times.

The Indians thrived with their application.

Kohli valued his wicket, playing late and reaching out to the pitch of the ball. He rotated the strike well and never missed a chance to steal a boundary. The Indian captain gathered runs all around the ground and achieved his first half-century at the Kotla and 12th overall early in the final session.

A 50 after eight innings boosted Kohli's morale and he stepped up the scoring rate as India kept inflating their lead over South Africa.

First innings centurion Rahane, who survived several difficult moments with superb determination, gathered most of his runs square of the wicket on either side. He must have been pleased with his industrious stay that fetched him a half-century that was memorable, if not high in terms of quality.

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