Ahmedabad: Talismanic batter Virat Kohli showed impeccable grit, discipline and concentration to make a magnificent 186 as India took a 91-run lead over Australia after being bowled out for 571 in their first innings during the fourth Test at Narendra Modi Stadium on Sunday.
At stumps, Australia reached 3/0 in six overs of their second innings and trail India by 88 runs with one day left in the match. Travis Head made all the runs, as he and makeshift opener Matthew Kuhnemann, in place of an injured Usman Khawaja, negotiated the tricky six overs from Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami.
If Shubman Gill was the talk of the town with his sparkling 128 on Saturday, it was Kohli’s turn to be in the spotlight on Sunday to break his drought for a Test century which lasted 1025 days, 41 innings and more than three years.
His determined 364-ball stay at the crease was Kohli simply at his grittiest best, hitting 15 boundaries, running hard for his ones and twos while enthralling a sizeable Sunday crowd.
He was also supported by a nice 44 from KS Bharat and an excellent 79 from Axar Patel. For Australia, Nathan Lyon and Todd Murphy took three wickets each while Mitchell Starc and Matthew Kuhnemann took a scalp each.
All partnerships for the first six wickets by India ran for more than 50 runs. In the first session on Sunday, Kohli didn’t hit a single boundary. But from the second session onwards, he stroked wonderful boundaries to give India a sizeable lead, especially with Shreyas Iyer unavailable due to a lower back complaint and had to be sent for scans.
The day began with Ravindra Jadeja cutting uppishly against Murphy past slip for four. After taking another four through mid-off against Murphy, Jadeja mistimed to mid-on, but it went for a single.
But when he tried to repeat the shot in the final ball of 107th over, which came a little quicker, Jadeja lofted straight into mid-on’s hands off Murphy, ending a knock where he was patient for a major chunk of it.
Bharat came out to bat and got going with a superb slog-sweep going for six off Lyon. There was some turn available for Lyon, Murphy and Kuhnemann, as Australia operated with 7-2 leg-side fields, and spinners bowling tidy spells, like operating on off and outside off-stump lines, to dry up runs for Kohli and Bharat.
But whenever there was a bad ball, it was hit for boundary. Like, Bharat cracked a cut off backfoot when Nathan Lyon dropped short, as Kohli added only 29 runs to his overnight score in the first session.
Post lunch, Australia began with a short-ball ploy from their pacers. But Bharat took on Cameron Green with successive pulled sixes, followed by an elegant cut through deep point on a no-ball.
His fine cameo came to an end on 44 when he came forward to defend off Nathan Lyon. But the off-spinner got turn and bounce, taking inside edge to short leg. His wicket also meant Lyon went past Derek Underwood for the most Test wickets in India by a visiting bowler.
When Kohli reached 99, there was anticipation bubbling in the air as spectators brought out their mobiles to capture the century moment. It arrived on the second ball of 139th over, as Kohli came forward against Lyon and played a flick through square leg for single to bring up his 75th international century.
A sedate Kohli took off his helmet and raised the bat to acknowledge the applause from the crowd before kissing his wedding ring and looking to the skies in subdued celebrations on reaching the three-figure mark in Tests.
With pitch still not looking treacherous, Kohli brought out off-drive and glance through backward square leg off Starc for a brace of boundaries. He took the attack to spinners, pulling Murphy between backward square leg and short fine leg while driving on the up against Lyon for another boundary.
Axar also joined the party with some boundaries, including an effortless loft over a leaping long-off for six off Murphy, resulting in Khawaja limping off the field. He then cut off Kuhnemann through cover for boundary to put India on the verge of taking the lead in the match.
In the final session, after 3.3 overs, Axar got India in the lead by cutting Murphy through backward point for four. When Green was brought back in the attack, Kohli was quick to unfurl a cover-drive to an outside off-stump delivery.
On the very next ball, which was angled into pads, Kohli shuffled across to flick through mid-wicket and go past 150. When Green bowled a high full toss, Kohli got a thick edge past keeper for four, before taking a brace of boundaries off Lyon – a delightful pull was followed by a drive through mid-off.
Axar reached his fifty in 95 balls with a single off Murphy and then attacked Kuhnemann with a big swipe over mid-wicket for six. He then moved across to sweep Murphy through mid-wicket for four, before slog-sweeping twice off Kuhnemann for sixes.
His knock came to an end when he tried to drive off Starc, but chopped on to his stumps. Lyon got his third wicket of the match when he had Ashwin slog-sweeping to deep mid-wicket. In the next over, Umesh Yadav was caught short of the crease at the non-striker’s end by a direct hit from Peter Handscomb.
Kohli was dropped at 185 when Handscomb tried to take the catch with both hands while diving, but shelled the chance. In the next over, Murphy bowled outside off-stump and Kohli went for the slog-sweep, but holed out to deep mid-wicket, bringing an end to India’s innings as well as to Kohli’s wonderful knock.
Brief Scores: Australia 480 in 167.2 overs and 3/0 in six overs trail India 571 in 178.5 overs (Virat Kohli 186, Shubman Gill 128; Todd Murphy 3/113, Nathan Lyon 3/151) by 88 runs