Kohli leads India's fight

Kohli leads India's fight

Kohli leads India's fight

A sharp spell of shower and fading light combined to shorten final session of third day's play but not before Virat Kohli (153, 379m, 217b, 15x4) had lit up the SuperSport Park with a sparkling century.

If Kohli's 21st career hundred had taken India -- 307 all out -- to a striking distance of South Africa's first innings total of 335 all out, Jasprit Bumrah's twin strikes in quick succession had opened up the second Test before an enterprising AB de Villiers (50 n.o., 78b, 6x4) and a solid Dean Elgar (36 n.o.) calmed the nerves in the home dressing room with an unbroken 87-run stand for the third wicket here on Monday.

Bumrah, who shared the new ball with off-spinner R Ashwin, struck with his third ball to give India a good start. Markram was South Africa's top-scorer in the first innings but he fell early in the second, trapped by Bumrah by a delivery that kept a touch low. Amla was scalped soon in almost an action replay of Markram's dismissal. With some alacrity from Parthiv Patel, India could have had Elgar as well on his personal score of 30 but the stumper remained rooted to his position, expecting the first slip to go for it.

Afternoon showers had eaten into an hour's play before umpires had to stop play for the second time --this time due to poor visibility and after which the game never resumed -- as 27 overs were lost for the day. South Africa by then had posted 90 for two in 29 overs for an overall lead of 118 runs -- a good recovery by the hosts on a pitch where batting isn't going to get any easier as it deteriorates further.

India know they can't afford to allow South Africa to build on this partnership and Ashwin will have a key role to play for them. The rough outside right-hander's leg-stump is more pronounced now and the off-spinner would be looking to make it play in home batsmen's minds.

That India are still in the fight is largely because of Kohli's innings that as much about his skills as it was about his characteristic determination. He was the last man to fall in an Indian innings of 307 all out in 92.1 overs and the standing ovation from the sparse crowd, who otherwise have been firmly behind the home side, captured best the significance of his gem.

As the Indian skipper ran out of partners one by one, he had no choice but to go for his shots instead of putting at risk the tail-enders' limbs, and in the process holed out at long on for his highest score against South Africa.

Kohli, overnight 85, brought up his second ton in South Africa early in the morning but his partner Hardik Pandya committed hara-kiri soon when the going looked good for the tourists. Having defended Kagiso Rabada to mid-on, Pandya wanted to take on Vernon Philander but was rightly sent back by Kohli. Pandya instead of hurrying in, was seen forward moonwalking into the crease. Philnder didn't miss the target and replays confirmed both Pandya's leg and bat were in the air. An unforgivable mistake at this level.

India needed Kohli-Pandya partnership to prolong to cut down South Africa's big advantage but Ashwin (38) provided that stand with a chancy but productive innings. The right-hander, who creamed Rabada for three consecutive fours on the off, added 71 runs for the seventh wicket to frustrate the home attack.

The new-ball finally did the trick for South Africa when Philander forced Ashwin to dab at an away swinger for Faf du Plessis to take a straightforward but sharp catch at second slip. Mohammad Shami lasted nine balls and just when it seemed the Indian innings would be rolled over before lunch, Ishant Sharma remained unbeaten with Kohli farming the strike. India could add only 20 more runs after lunch before the innings folded up.