India v SA, 4th Test, Delhi, 3rd day December 5, 2015

Kohli, Rahane lift India's lead to 403

India 334 and 190 for 4 (Kohli 83*, Rahane 52*, Morkel 3-29) lead South Africa 121 by 403 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Manjrekar: Kohli's batting in difficult conditions showed his class

An unbroken 133-run partnership between Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane - the first century stand of the series - deflated South Africa after Morne Morkel had given them a sliver of hope with three early top-order wickets. India were 57 for 4 when Rahane joined Kohli early in the post-lunch session. They were still in command, their lead a healthy 270, but South Africa were eyeing the possibility of having less than 400 to chase. When bad light brought day three to a close with nine overs still to be bowled, Kohli and Rahane were still unbeaten, on 83 and 52 respectively, India's lead now a mighty 403.

Morkel took wickets off successive deliveries in the first session to leave India 8 for 2, yorked Shikhar Dhawan soon after lunch, and continued to threaten with pace and reverse-swing to end the day with figures of 3 for 29 from 17 overs. The rest of the attack did their job too, but their efforts seemed to have a tinge of futility to them, thanks to the disappointing performance of their batsmen on the second day. Getting bowled out for 121 and conceding a 213-run first-innings lead was always going to leave South Africa chasing the game.

Still, India had to fight hard. Dhawan had batted as cautiously as he had done in the first innings, leaving resolutely outside off stump, had taken a couple of blows, off awkwardly bouncing deliveries from Kyle Abbott and Imran Tahir, and had moved to 21 off 85 when Morkel speared a full, fast ball under his bat from around the wicket.

Cheteshwar Pujara, who had mirrored Dhawan's struggle at the other end, fell three overs later, bowled for the third time in successive innings. This time it was Tahir who rattled his stumps with a flatter, quicker legbreak that left Pujara going back rather than forward, playing the trajectory rather than the length. India were now 57 for 4.

Kohli and Rahane had looked the most assured batsmen in India's first innings, and they continued to bat fluently, timing their shots better than the top order had done. But South Africa's bowlers still made them work hard for their runs. Though their partnership run-rate of 2.66 was significantly better than the 1.97 achieved by the previous-highest stand in the innings, between Dhawan and Pujara, it was still slow going by their standards.

Even Tahir, erratic all through the tour, found his rhythm, bowling with accuracy and keeping the batsmen guessing with his variations. A big-spinning legbreak to Kohli seemed to have given him his second wicket when umpire Bruce Oxenford upheld the South Africans' caught-behind appeal, but a check for no-ball showed Tahir's heel to have landed marginally, but decisively, beyond the crease. Further replays also suggested Kohli hadn't edged the ball. Kohli survived, but might still face censure from the match referee for his reaction to the initial decision: he refused to walk off for a few seconds, glaring at the umpire and muttering under his breath.

M Vijay too might have gone into the match referee's notebook, when Kumar Dharmasena gave him out caught behind off Morkel. That wicket, in the fifth over of India's innings, came off a snorter of a bouncer, angling into the batsman and forcing him to lift his gloves and bat instinctively to shield his face. Given out, Vijay's first reaction was to point at his arm guard. He was right that the ball had struck him there, and therefore unlucky to be given out, but gesturing to the umpire was an ill-advised step.

That was the last ball of Morkel's third over. First ball of his fourth was pitched at a near-perfect spot, on an off-stump line and the fuller side of a good length, and it straightened to hit the top of off stump after beating the outside edge of India's No. 3. It was Rohit Sharma, rather than Cheteshwar Pujara, who occupied this slot.

Initially it seemed that the promotion came about because Pujara had suffered a bruised hand while fielding at short leg on day two, but then it seemed it might have been tactical, when Pujara walked out at No. 4. Either way, it ended a horrendous Test with the bat for Rohit - he holed out to long-on for 1 in the first innings, and followed that with a golden duck in the second.

Rahane had a couple of nervy moments against the spinners, preferring to play them off the back foot, as he had done in the first innings, but not playing as steadfastly straight. Looking to pull Tahir, low bounce forced him to bottom-edge the ball into the flap of his pad and balloon in the air. Only Rahane's own physical presence prevented Dane Vilas from diving forward from behind the stumps and completing the catch. A few overs later, sharp turn from Piedt made Rahane jam his bat down awkwardly and squeeze the ball into the on side, after initially looking to cut him against the turn.

But it was Morkel who continued to pose the most problems. Coming back for his third spell, he reversed a 45-over-old ball away from Rahane to produce a massive caught-behind appeal. It was turned down, rightly so, with replays showing the ball missing his outside edge and flicking his back pad. In his next over, he bent the ball into Rahane twice, and the batsman left the ball on both occasions. The first one narrowly missed the top of off stump, the second hit Rahane's front pad, height preventing another full-throated appeal from being upheld.

By tea, though, both Kohli and Rahane had settled in and were batting with a fair degree of comfort. Barring an inside-edge from Rahane off Abbott that narrowly missed leg stump, South Africa didn't pose too many problems to the pair in the middle.

Kohli scored at a fairly good clip, though not with his usual array of leg-side whips and cover drives; with the pitch throwing up occasionally uncertain bounce, he played later than he often does, letting the ball come on and picking up a number of boundaries with controlled dabs to the third-man region. Rahane was more sedate, scoring 9 runs off the first 42 balls he faced in the session before changing gears with a powerfully swept four off Tahir.

Starting with that shot, Rahane picked up three fours in five overs, and soon reached his half-century, completing an emphatic turnaround in form. Having started the series with scores of 15, 2, 13 and 9, he was ending it with a century and a fifty in the same match.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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