Captain Kohli leads from the front, brings up century


Virat Kohli was India’s best batsman on their previous tour of Australia in 2011-12. In that tour he scored a sublime century at Adelaide. Today, in his first test match as skipper, he continued his Adelaide love affair with another three figure knock. Kohli’s hundred was a statement. The determination and hunger was evident in his eyes. India weren’t just here to compete. They are here to win. And today he led from the front and let his bat do the talking.

Michael Clarke declared overnight and sent the Indians into bat. The Indian openers started confidently trailing by 517 runs. Dhawan latched on to anything short out-side off and looked in ominous form. However, an untimely inside edge off Ryan Harris ended Dhawan’s cameo for a 24-ball 25. Dhawan’s dismissal brought Pujara to the crease.

Murali Vijay, who had been India’s best batsman on the recent tour of UK appeared to be set for a big innings. He was watchful early on his innings, and only scored his first runs off the 19th ball. However the introduction of Nathan Lyon gave the Chennai opener a chance to free his arms. He danced down the track to deposit the off-spinner into the stands twice effortlessly changing gears.

Mitchell Johnson eventually brought about Vijay’s downfall pushing him back on the crease after some well directed short balls. Vijay poked at an innocuous delivery to be dismissed for an otherwise solid innings of 53. In walked the Indian skipper Virat Kohli to face the heat of a fired up Johnson. The first he faced landed straight on the centre of his helmet on the badge. The bowler and the close in fielders immediately checked to see if Kohli was alright. Kohli was unfazed. He checked his helmet and carried on with the game.

What followed was a period of elegant batting by Kohli and Pujara. The pair’s driving and their ability to pierce the field was a highlight. Both batsmen struggled to score runs in England, but looked assured at the crease today. Pujara known for his patience set about mending his poor record away from home to date. But on 73 was undone by a Lyon delivery that dribbled off the bat onto the stumps.

Rahane came to the crease and appeared busy from the start. His battle with Lyon was particularly interesting. The off spinner caused headaches with his uncertain bounce and sharp spin. Rahane responded with some powerful cuts against the turn but looked much more fluent against the faster bowlers. However Lyon got his man with an unplayable delivery that kicked up and took the glove of Rahane to be caught by Watson at slip. He had played an enterprising knock of 62 off just 76 deliveries.

Day three however belonged to Virat Kohli. He has the swagger, the attitude, gets under the skin of opposition- but most importantly delivers when his team needs him most. His innings today was effortless. There were crisp drives on the up, powerful cuts, majestic pulls and in between all the boundaries some very good running between wickets. He brought up his 7th Test century with a drive to the on-side. He pointed to the crest and flag on his helmet and let out a cry. Then it was back to business. However on 115, Johnson induced a pull shot that was caught magnificently by a diving Ryan Harris at deep square leg ending Kohli’s stay at the crease.

At 26 years of age, Kohli has already racked up 21 ODI centuries and averages over 52 in that format. But if today is any indication, Virat Kohli could just be settling into the famous number four spot that was occupied by a certain batsman that wore the Indian cap proudly for 24 years.

Another batsman with immense class, Rohit Sharma is still at the crease on 33* and batting fluently. After his recent knock of 264 in an ODI, Sharma is high on confidence. He will be India’s key batsman as they head into Day 4 and look to overhaul Australia’s total.

Michael Clarke on the other hand will want his fast men to fire up. Wriddhaman Saha got a taste of what was to come as Johnson peppered him with short deliveries upon arrival to the crease. More is likely to follow. On what is a brilliant batting wicket, no team is willing to take a backward step and the game is interestingly poised. With more good weather expected on Day 4, it looks set to be a cracking contest once more.
Published in The Indian Sun, Sydney

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