Virat Kohli tamed the South Africa fast bowlers with a stroke-filled innings of 84 not out as India reached 164 for four at tea on the first day of the first Test at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
Kohli, filling the No. 4 batting position vacated by the recently retired Sachin Tendulkar, came in with India in trouble at 24 for two.
Kohli was the dominant partner in a third-wicket stand of 89 with Cheteshwar Pujara (25,) which went a long way toward justifying captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to bat first on a pitch which is renowned for giving assistance to fast bowlers on the first morning, but which also gives value to batsmen prepared to play their strokes.
The partnership ended with a mix-up which led to the patient Pujara being run out after making 25 off 98 balls.
Rohit Sharma, who made centuries in his only two previous Test innings, against the West Indies in India, was caught behind off Vernon Philander for 14 shortly before tea.
Kohli, though, played a wide variety of attacking strokes, hitting 14 boundaries in a 111-ball innings. He reached his half-century off 76 balls with nine fours.
Earlier Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel took a wicket apiece as the India batsmen were subjected to a testing examination from the South Africa pace attack.
Steyn dismissed Shikhar Dhawan for 13 and Morkel claimed the wicket of Dhawan’s fellow opening batsman, Murali Vijay, for six.
Morkel, who came on as first change, gave Vijay a torrid time with some sharply lifting deliveries before having Vijay caught behind by A.B. de Villiers off a fuller one.
Vijay had only two scoring strokes in making six off 42 balls.