India’s batting mainstay Virat Kohli finally ended a near 40-month wait for his 28th Test hundred as his scrappy but brilliantly effective 186 set up a gripping final day of the fourth Test against Australia here on Sunday.
Kohli’s epic knock helped India amass 571 in response to Australia’s first innings score of 480. With a lead of 91 runs, India had a go at Australia in the six overs before stumps but visitors managed to keep all wickets intact.
With a lead of 88 at close, India will have to go for the jugular on day five on a track where there is finally some turn and bounce on offer but not something that batters can’t tackle.
A draw still looks the most likely result but if any team wins the Test from here, it will be India, who would then go on to win the series 3-1 and directly qualify for the World Test Championship final, without having to wait on the fate of Sri Lanka’s Test series versus New Zealand.
For the 15,000 odd people present at Motera, it was a Sunday to remember as Virat Kohli guided Nathan Lyon towards mid-wicket to complete his first Test hundred since November 2019. The hundred, his 75th in international cricket, came off 241 balls.
The celebrations were muted as there was still some way to go before India would be in driver’s seat and hence he didn’t want to lose focus by getting elated. There was a smile of satisfaction and a now familiar kiss on his engagement ring.
It was an innings of different character from Kohli. Having had his troubles dealing with deliveries outside the off-stump, he traded caution in exchange of flair and hardly played those beastly cover drives till he reached his hundred.
There were shades of Sachin Tendulkar’s 241 at Sydney in 2004 in this innings of Kohli’s, when one compares the sheer discipline of the two knocks.
Kohli showed copious amount of patience on way to a gritty hundred before changing gears. A supremely fit athlete, Kohli ran 84 singles, 18 doubles and twice he took three runs, including once when he was batting in his 160s. By sheer volume of running between the wickets, he collected 126 of his 186 runs with 15 hits to the fence.
Wife Anushka Sharma put up an Instagram post which informed that Kohli showed this enormous composure despite being “sick”.
It was pity that Shreyas Iyer couldn’t turn up for batting due to recurring back pain and Kohli was the ninth and last Indian man to be dismissed after his 364 ball knock that spanned over 8 hours and 36 minutes. No one deserved those 14 runs more than him.
As he dragged his tired body towards the pavilion, rival skipper Steve Smith and bowler Todd Murphy along with other Aussie players came to shake his hands and the crowd near dressing room gave a standing ovation.
He did have some significant partnerships but no better than the 162 that he added for the sixth wicket with an ever- improving Axar Patel (79 off 113 balls).
Never had Kohli shown determination of this kind and a testimony to that was not being impatient for a boundary for 162 balls. In fact, in the first session, he couldn’t add to his overnight five hits to the fence.
He decided to complete the coveted ton in singles and doubles and then hit 10 boundaries in his next 86 runs.
The first expansive cover drive only came in his 140s off Cameron Green. That the track was good for batting was evident from the fact that all partnerships for the first six wickets was worth more than 50 runs.
Australian bowlers though had a good morning session as India managed only 73 in the 32 overs that were sent down.
Kona Bharat (44, 88 balls), who has had a dreadful run with the bat, looked impressive as he hit three sixes in his innings but would curse himself for not getting a big one and cementing his place in the Indian team.
In the post lunch session, it was Bharat who attacked, pulled and hooked Cameron Green for a couple of sixes when he tried bouncing the batter from around the wicket.
His best shot was slog swept six off Nathan Lyon over cow corner but he would rue his luck after being out to a bat-pad catch at short-leg off Lyon’s bowling.