Virat Kohli's ten best Test knocks

From blazing away in Perth to lording it at Edgbaston, this has been a career of defying the odds

Virat Kohli: eyes on the ball, South Africa vs India, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 2nd day, January 12, 2022

Virat Kohli: eyes on the ball  •  AFP/Getty Images

119 v South Africa, Johannesburg, 2013
The first Test of a 13-month stretch in which India would have to play four overseas series, and Virat Kohli set the tone with an innings South Africa's then bowling coach Allan Donald said "reminded him of Tendulkar". In seaming conditions against Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, he left responsibly early before opening up and targeting the spinners. It was a calculated innings that allowed India to eventually get to a winning position before the match ended in a tense draw.
Dustin Silgardo
105* v NZ, Wellington, 2014
It looked like India might get Kolkata-ed. They were well ahead in the Test, but Brendon McCullum and BJ Watling had done a Laxman-Dravid, and on day five, it looked like India might lose. Rather than just bat time, Kohli played sparkling shots all around the wicket, taking the pressure off India and getting them a draw.
Dustin Silgardo
141 v Australia, Adelaide, 2014
In his first Test as captain, Kohli had already got a century in the first innings. When Australia made an aggressive declaration, leaving India 364 to chase in a day, Kohli decided that his side was going to play for a win and not a draw and that he was going to be the one to show them how. Nathan Lyon was turning it big, there was awkward bounce, but Kohli was sweeping from outside off, cover driving against the turn, pulling and cutting Mitchell Johnson. His strike-rate was 80.57, and he got India to within 60 runs of a win before holing out at midwicket.
Dustin Silgardo
169 v Aus, Melbourne 2014
Spectacular, courageous and skillful, this was an innings of both soul and substance. Kohli had already announced himself with twin hundreds at Adelaide, but with Ajinkya Rahane matching him, he created theatre on cricket's largest stage by roughing up Johnson (68 off 73 balls), who had terrified England on these pitches the previous season. I was there, and the sensation remains.
Sambit Bal
235 v England, Mumbai, 2016
Don't be fooled by the scorecard, this was a masterclass against spin on a pitch that had turned vicious by day three. Playing five batters, India were six down with 93 in arrears when Kohli started amping it up, sweeping out of the rough, driving against the turn and lofting down the ground. When he was done, England were done too.
Sambit Bal
104* vs Sri Lanka, Kolkata, 2017
India opted for a green track to help them prepare for their upcoming tour of South Africa, and the seamers dominated a rain-affected Kolkata Test that seesawed rivetingly. A Suranga Lakmal-led Sri Lanka attack shot India out for 172 in their first innings, and then had them effectively 159 for 7 halfway through day five. Kohli, who had until then batted with a serenity that transcended the conditions, seized the moment with a flurry of breathtaking on-the-up drives and leg-side whips, and transformed the mood at Eden Gardens. In his time at the crease, Kohli scored 104 off 119 balls, while six wickets fell at the other end for 56 runs. When bad light brought an early end to the Test, it was to the relief of Sri Lanka, who were 75 for 7 in a chase of 231.
Karthik Krishnaswamy
153 v South Africa, Centurion, 2018
The next best score from his side was 46, the second innings altogether put on 151, South Africa completed the series win despite all the anticipation and build-up from India, but for the 379 minutes that Kohli batted anything seemed possible. Kohli brought India within striking distance of South Africa but an AB de Villiers masterclass in the second innings denied them.
Sidharth Monga
149 v England, Edgbaston, 2018
Kohli's first Test century in England. An innings that showcased his vulnerability at the beginning, followed by his tenacity to stay put, then his free-flowing and glorious strokeplay, and above all, his immense hunger to be one above his opponent. Just before lunch on August 2, 2018, Kohli walked into Edgbaston to vociferous boos from the England crowd after the Indian captain had given an impolite send-off to his opposite number Joe Root on the first day of the series. That was immediately followed by one of the most forensic examinations of his batting by England great James Anderson who bowled 15 overs split across the lunch break to challenge Kohli's defensive skills and his ego, inducing outside edges frequently, thus creating one of the most engrossing and intimate battles seen between ball and bat in Test cricket. Of the 43 balls he faced from Anderson that day, Kohli had 41 dots, scoring just six runs.
On 21, Kohli had nearly started to walk back after poking at an Anderson away-going delivery, but Dawid Malan, at second slip, flopped it badly. Anderson sank on his 36-year-old creaking knees in pain and frustration. Kohli restarted and never stopped there on. It did not matter to him that all of India's specialist batters had left him to get India closer to England's first innings 287. Kohli buried his ego and let his bat talk as he was the last man out, with the lead being limited to 13 runs. Upon reaching the three-figures Kohli pointed his finger to his head - as if to say how much temperament matters. Kohli would score another half century in the second innings even as India lost the Test by 31 runs. His efforts were enough for him to uproot Steve Smith and replace the Australian as the No. 1 Test batting in the ICC rankings, the first for an Indian since Sachin Tendulkar in 2011.
Nagraj Gollapudi
123 v Australia, Perth, 2018
Uneven bounce. Seam movement. High pace. Turn from the rough. An unrelenting attack. This pitch required the highest quality of batting. The next highest score in the whole match was 70. Fingers were broken, helmets were crashed, collapses happened, but Kohli seemed like he was batting on a different surface in a different universe. His best innings to date.
Sidharth Monga
74 vs Australia, Adelaide, 2020-21
Before 36 all out, India had had a slight upper hand in the Adelaide Test of December 2020, and quite a bit of that was down to Kohli, who marked his first day-night Test at his favourite venue with an innings of technical virtuosity. On a day-one pitch with spongy bounce, he largely shelved the full-blooded drive and displayed beautiful balance at the crease and judgment around off stump to construct what was then his second-slowest half-century, coming off 123 balls. The innings, together with gritty contributions from Cheteshwar Pujara and Rahane, put India in a seemingly commanding position at 188 for 3, until a mix-up with Rahane cost Kohli his wicket and gave Australia just the opening they needed to bowl India out for 244.
Karthik Krishnaswamy