South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 1st day December 18, 2013

Kohli makes a Tendulkar-like ton

In difficult conditions against one of the world's best attacks, Virat Kohli remained unfazed, played his own game, and showed India could compete

'Kohli reminded me of Tendulkar' - Donald

India's last two Test hundreds in South Africa, and three out of the last four, all came from No. 4. It was in a way fitting that the latest assertion that they can compete here despite the ODI poor showings, came from their newest No. 4 batsman. In terms of discipline - never mind the Cheteshwar Pujara run-out and his eventual dismissal - Virat Kohli matched Sachin Tendulkar. This is not a comparison between the two batsmen, but this hundred of Kohli was Tendulkar-like in its defence and its calculated stroke-play. Even Allan Donald, who is now South Africa's bowling coach and has had many a contest with Tendulkar in the 1990s, was reminded of Tendulkar.

"The one word that comes to my mind is responsibility," Donald said. "I think he [Kohli] showed great discipline and responsibility. It reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar when they came here in 1996. I was the first one to say back in 1996 that India didn't show much bottle, and that one person that jumps out and plays for the situation, plays for his team was Tendulkar. That's what came to my mind when I saw Kohli batting - the way he left the ball and when we were slightly off the line he punished the ball. He paced his innings very well. But for me, he was responsible today. He put up his hand today, and showed real fight. He was tight, and didn't give much away until the end."

An amazing statistic about Kohli's innings is that he left alone 61 of the 181 balls he faced, but still went at a strike rate of 66. More instructive was when he left them alone. He didn't offer a shot to 16 of the first 28 balls he faced after which he got a few loose ones and ran away with them. Then came lunch. A new innings began after the interval: he left alone 11 of the first 17 balls bowled to him. Then he got a short and wide delivery from Vernon Philander, and launched into it. In the next over he smack-pulled Dale Steyn and was back in a mood to score runs.

He was confident of his game, knew he didn't have a glaring weakness, read what the bowlers were trying to do, sussed out the pitch and match conditions, and wasn't going to throw a good start away. Taking singles was an important part of India's game today. Yes, M Vijay got caught at one end a bit, but you could see there was a lot of emphasis on not letting South Africa bowl at one batsman for a long time. It possibly resulted in the Pujara run-out - although they were also ball-watching a bit - but that only firmed Kohli's resolve further.

And then there were the shots. Crisp, clean, and loud and clear in the statement they made. The first two were pulls off Jacques Kallis and Steyn. This might have worked with Shikhar Dhawan, but won't with me, Kohli seemed to say. And he was given quite a few short balls, which failed to push him back. Another Tendulkar-like aspect of this innings was that Kohli was right forward when he played the forward defence.

The 18 fours that he hit - only one of them unintended - showed how much he punished the bad balls. It didn't matter if it was Steyn, Morkel or Philander. A loose ball was a loose ball. Steyn bowled a limp short ball, and Kohli dismissed it from his sight, later saying that he didn't remember many short balls bowled at him after that. The next ball Kohli left alone, and Steyn was in his face with verbals. Snarling bowlers is usually a sign that you are doing well. Morkel, who was the best bowler on the day with his steep bounce, was cut away for four when he bowled wide.

Against Imran Tahir and JP Duminy, though, it was open season. Tahir's first ball - he usually bowls the last over before lunch when South Africa are bowling on day one - was only slightly short, and Kohli rocked back to pull him. He added another boundary in that over. Who cares if lunch is around the corner? You are not going to get too many gentle legbreaks in South Africa and when you do, you make most use of them. Off the 27 balls bowled by Tahir, Kohli scored 31, including that trademark extra-cover drive which beat cover by a few feet and sweeper by several.

That century celebration, which Kohli possibly never wanted to end, showed how much this knock meant to him. He later said that even when he was in Australia, he used to think about getting a hundred in South Africa, because the senior players had told him how special it was. To put it in perspective, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly never managed one here. Kohli has done it in his first Test innings in the country.

There is a long way to go for India. Kohli knows he fell at the wrong time, and to a loose shot. He knows Tests in South Africa can turn in minutes because wickets can fall in a heap. One thing has been achieved, though: India know that they can compete. A message Tendulkar used to send across often in the '90s.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • CMIS on December 19, 2013, 13:29 GMT

    @Gerry_the_Merry your argument about number of matches is a double-edged sword. It is a mathematical reality that averages tend to go down with the number of matches played. For example, what if Strauss did not retire when he did and played another tour of South Africa, it can conceivably be argued that his form dip would probably have seen his average in SA against Steyn and Co go the same direction. The averages in SA (>500 runs) with only Gilchrist having an above 60 record hints that SA is a pretty difficult place to play especially as they have always had a strong seam attack since readmission. In that light I don't think an average of 46 over 15 Tests spanning five tours is anything to be scoffed at.

  • android_user on December 19, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    @ Gerry_the_Merry: Fair points regarding Tendulkar . I agree that a high batting average is far more valuable than longevity. Tendulkar was certainly not the greatest, although he was very good. Also, his average in the 3rd and 4th innings of test matches was not really spectacular (Gavaskar was brilliant in this regard) and that would suggest that Tendulkar had a penchant for wilting under pressure? Tendulkar was quite good in most other regards though.

  • dummy4fb on December 19, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Yeah! Kohli does remind one of Ponting, when he was at his best. That is the only similarity..Kohli does not get bounced out of night clubs like Ponting did , all over the world, once . This is typical pom-aus classification. They just classify the tracks that they cannot play on as " flat-tracks".

    Some Miah character was commenting thet India lost 5 wickets for 25 runs. My math may be wrong but 280 is still better than 49 all out.What do u say? Miah!

  • rt-uk on December 19, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    How could you even make such a comparison.. on-field & off, Tendulkar was such a jem, a role-model for youngsters & everyone; I dont think Kohli even qualifies.

  • Bonehead_maz on December 19, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Haha , Alan Donald still baiting opposition, but has moved onto journalists. Taken hook line and sinker.

  • counterpoint87 on December 19, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    if its a tendulkar like innings.. then we are bound to lose this game too, there is no hope now. laxman never scored a hundred but his 96 in durban was one of the best innings played by an indian in sa. stop glorifying centuries. surely there is something higher that the accumulation of personal milestones.

  • xtrafalgarx on December 19, 2013, 9:09 GMT

    He looks nothing like Tendulkar. I didn't see Tendulkar in his early days, but this was a lot more aggressive than Tendulkar. To me he played more like Ponting than Tendulkar, he doesn't look like Ponting because he is wristy and looks like an Indian player, but his approach was very Ponting like with his pull shots and shot selection.

  • Sir_Ivor on December 19, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    I am not sure about the reasons for SamRoy's pessimism. India have always done reasonably well at the Wanderers . On the three occasions that they have played here they honourably drew in 92, almost won in 96 and won in 2006 with South Africa being destroyed by Sreesanth and Zaheer Khan. They did not play here in 2010.From what I have seen, the wicket does have cracks and batting last could be a problem.Then again the ball should reverse here and importantly, thunder showers are expected. This could pep up the Indian pacemen. It would be interesting to see how Shami and Ishant bowl because the former is playing on such a bouncy wicket for the first time and secondly,it did look like Ishant has turned the corner in the ODIs.One can never say what could happen but I think India have a good chance in this game. It has already been seen that the famed South African pace attack also can be handled with some resoluteness.Now is the time for the Indian bowling to show how good they are.

  • UNIVERSAL_CRICKETER on December 19, 2013, 8:26 GMT

    Doesn't Virat Kohli remind us of a young, aggressive & brash Punter.....Ricky Ponting...

  • dummy4fb on December 19, 2013, 8:07 GMT

    Stop this comparison with Tendulkar.Enough of eulogies now. Let us look forward. Kohli is altogether a different batsman and he is pleasing to eyes in full flow. Let him enjoy his cricket.

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