South Africa vs India 2018: Virat Kohli's resilient performance is SK Play of the Day
Even as wickets kept falling at the other end, skipper Virat Kohli led from the front in order to ensure that India took the fight to South Africa during an absorbing second day's play in the second Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
With an unbeaten 85 from 130 deliveries, Kohli was largely responsible for India ending the day at a respectable score of 183/5. Still 152 runs adrift of South Africa's first innings total, the Indian captain staved off the hosts' menacing pace attack on a dicey surface. His gritty knock, studded with eight boundaries, averted what could have been a disastrous day for the visitors.
Faf du Plessis swells South Africa's total
Resuming the second day at 269/6, the Proteas looked towards their skipper Faf du Plessis as well as the lower-order for vital runs. But India began the proceedings on a promising note as Mohammed Shami removed Keshav Maharaj with a brilliant delivery.
Unlike in the opening day wherein his lengths were all over the place, Shami bowled at consistent areas and operated with palpable purposefulness. Ravichandran Ashwin was also settling into a nice rhythm. The experienced off-spinner could have dismissed Kagiso Rabada. Alas, the fielders failed to latch on to not one but two opportunities in as many balls.
Meanwhile, du Plessis batted in an enterprising manner to keep the scoreboard ticking. The right-hander brought up a handy half-century before being castled by Ishant Sharma. Eventually, the innings was wrapped up at 335.
Determined Kohli wages plucky battle
In what was a massive left-field call, du Plessis gambled with Maharaj for the solitary over before lunch. When the second session started, the Indian openers attempted to build a solid platform. While Murali Vijay looked much more positive than the preceding Test, KL Rahul perished cheaply after failing to come to terms with the sluggish pace of the pitch.
India were jolted once again as Cheteshwar Pujara ran himself out in the very next ball. At 28/2, their batting lineup was threatening to unravel. However, Vijay and Kohli joined hands to carve a resourceful stand. The duo handled South Africa's pace attack remarkably well and steered the innings in the proper direction.
Kohli, especially, operated with intent right from the moment he walked into the crease. A couple of crisply timed drives off the bowling of Morne Morkel helped him get into the groove. He survived a couple of nervous moments induced by debutant Lungi Ngidi.
When the final session of the day began, India were stationed at 80/2. The duo continued their vital partnership for some more overs before Vijay finally paid the price for his inadequate execution of the cut shot. The frustration of his batting partner handing his wicket to a spinner on South African soil after getting set was writ on Kohli's face. His woes were further aggravated as Rabada trapped an underwhelming Rohit Sharma right in front.
Having lost a couple of wickets, India needed someone to partner Kohli and resuscitate the innings. The skipper found an able ally in Parthiv Patel, at least for the next half hour or so. The wicket-keeper batsman stroked a few boundaries to revert pressure back on the Proteas.
At the other end, Kohli exhibited enormous patience and refused to get seduced by juicy deliveries outside the off stump. Even as the pacers kept probing away in the corridor of uncertainty, the 29-year old restrained from feeling for the ball. After making the fast bowlers veer into his strengths, he duly capitalised by procuring valuable runs. Apart from one instance wherein an inside edge saved him from getting trapped in front, he appeared in total control.
Ngidi eventually got one to seam away from Parthiv and obtained his maiden Test scalp. Upon joining Kohli in the middle, Pandya assisted his captain in seeing off the last few overs of the second day's play.
When the two teams resume proceedings on Monday, Kohli will be aiming to sustain his presence at the crease and convert the effort into a substantial three-figure score. In their captain, India's fortunes rest. With a splendid performance, he may have kept their hopes alive for the time-being. But they need him to continue his charge on the third day in order to get closer to South Africa's first-innings total.