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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mohsin on December 6, 2015, 8:51 GMT

    @ Unbiasedviews.. Does a player need to be a captain to know which player is unstoppable & which is not. Yes, SRT was in his pomp from 1996 to 2002. So was Lara. WI have played more often vs AUS when Warne & McGrath were part of the team & in their pomp. Ponting has been part of enough series where Lara & SRT played AUS. So, I guess he can make a judgment even though he wasn't d captain of his side. Yes, SRT was feared in ODIs upto 2002 but not as much in Tests. He was a better ODI player than a Test player if u ask me. For most players of SRT's generation, Test cricket was d pinnacle of sport & Test match records mattered more to them. ODIs are a sideshow except WC.

  • Mohsin on December 6, 2015, 8:15 GMT

    @Unbiasedviews..Lara played in d 90's didn't he? Has been hooked to cricket since 1996 WC, more so since SRT's 2 100s in Sharjah. Been a big fan of him since. But, over time hav come to appreciate other players widout a bias. Didn't believe SRT played for personal milestones till d Multan Test when Dravid declared, wid SRT on 194. India won comfortably but, a batsman of SRT's stature shd hav known dat hindsight is beautiful & team's success comes 1st dan individual milestones. I thot he had buried d hatchet den & der. But, he brought it up again in his book. Even in Eng 2011, when 1 of d openers got injured, Dravid opened, carried his bat on his way to a 100 & immediately came out to open when Ind were made to follow on. But, SRT didn't even move to no.3 for d team. Instead, VVS was pushed up to 3. In those desperate times d team needed its best batsman to stand up & lead from d front. Numerology & superstitions can't be d reason to stick to dat no. 4 spot.

  •   Heramb Gude on December 6, 2015, 7:51 GMT

    Congratulations to Ajinkya Rahane for his twin hundreds in the same Test.I believe this is the 1st instance of an Indian batsmen scoring hundreds in both innings of the same Test match since Dravid's 190 & 103* v NZ,Hamilton,1998-99.I hope with Pujara's 145* in the 3rd Test v SL at Colombo(SSC) and Rahane's centuries in both innings here,for now,the debate about the batsmen best suited at No.3 and No.5 for India in Test cricket will be put to rest for the time being.

  • mayank on December 6, 2015, 7:38 GMT

    fight club: you have a long way to go before you start calling yourself cricket litterate

  • Harish on December 6, 2015, 7:35 GMT

    Reading some comments below, one would think Kyle Abbott, Morne Morkel, Ishant, Yadav are spinners, as 'only' spinners are taking wickets.

  • Harish on December 6, 2015, 7:24 GMT

    @Poms, atleast every Australian interested in playing in India two months a year. Have you seen Indians taking about Big Bash ? Na.

  • John on December 6, 2015, 6:56 GMT

    My heart quakes for South Africa: after Rahane's second ton of the match and Kohli's 88, they've been sent around 480 to win. Alternatively FIVE sessions to win or draw! It's like trekking across a desert: you take every step (here play every stroke) on merit. What did opener Elgar do? Took a yahoo for a six, which missed, then an expansive straight drive, straight to slip. Ridiculous! In came captain Amla, one of the world's best batsmen, top score 311, but in complete turmoil on this trip. He is capable of fighting. Perhaps if he's joined by de Villiers, each can show of what they are capable: a personal match in the general one! This would set off one of the remarkable fightback feats in Cricket, and see a return to some kind of form of their country. Do they have it in them? Otherwise a pathetic to and fro of broken figures will ensue. We await. Come on boys!

  • Venkat on December 6, 2015, 6:31 GMT

    Congratulations Rahane, two centuries in one match is special. With a bit more consistency we can finally say we have found our test number 5 in Rahane. Vijay, Kohli and Rahane are our current established test batsmen. The others are question marks still. I do however believe Kohli's position on being more aggressive in scoring faster in test cricket needs a bit of a correction. Vijay was given the role of being more sggressive this match to ease Dhawan back to scoring well, but does not work well for him. Kohli himself eased off the pedal a bit this match and hence scored better. He let the ball come to him more and was more cautious. Coming to the schedule, unfortunately we will need to wait for a while before the next test series!

  • S on December 6, 2015, 6:25 GMT

    @ACRICKLOVER - To be fair, Dhoni criticized Rahane's ODI skills, and Dhoni is still right. Rahane has a long way to go in ODIs and T20Is.

  • Lin on December 6, 2015, 6:17 GMT

    @MOHSIN9975, I agree with you, rahane is definitely a better test player than kohli (rahane is climbing up the ladder in ODI/T20 too). Kohli certainly has some issues in shot selection as well as his defense - especially against pace bowling. And also kohli is not in the same form as he used to be before.

    Today kohli was bit double minded too, although he will deny it but he was definitely thinking about century, he could have played like rahane today - bit more freely and he would have probably hit the century. It is indecisiveness which cost him his wicket. Today fast runs were needed not any personal records. Rahane played non-selfishly and benefited with reward.

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