Australia v India, 1st Test, Adelaide, 3rd day Kohli century leads India’s reply

Two of his middle-order colleagues, Pujara and Rahane, succumbed to the offspinner. Lyon gained considerably more assistance than legspinner Karn Sharma had managed. Pujara and Kohli were troubled by Lyon’s control and testing length and line outside off stump. Vijay had countered the offspinner by stepping out and lofting a couple of sixes, but the middle order, hesitant to leave the crease or go right back, was tied down in the second session.

Cheteshwar Pujara plays the flick © Getty Images

Cheteshwar Pujara plays the flick
© Getty Images

Wary of the turn and bounce with short leg in wait, Pujara was tentatively half-forward on 73 when one kicked, hit his thigh and slipped between his legs to roll on to the stumps.

Rahane had a rather nervy start but he rode his luck to hit ten fours in his 62, displaying his strength off the back foot against both spin and pace. He was beaten a few times by Johnson, just cleared mid-on off Lyon and almost top-edged Peter Siddle to deep square leg. A sharp turner from Lyon threw him in enough doubt to play a similar length next ball off the back foot, but it bounced so much it took the top of the handle and popped to slip.

Vijay’s fall was down to a short, sharp burst from Johnson at the stroke of lunch. Johnson worked Vijay over with a few bouncers, hitting the opener on the shoulder with one of them. Vijay, pushed back in the crease, feathered a pitched-up delivery to the wicketkeeper on 53.

Both Vijay and Pujara had looked good for plenty more after Shikhar Dhawan’s exit for a quick 25. Vijay was cautious initially, his first runs coming off his 19th delivery through a misfield, and his first boundary taking 46 balls. He left safely, as he had done for long periods in England.

Pujara was assured against the quicks right from the moment he came in. Harris and especially Siddle strayed into the pads often and Pujara picked them for boundaries. He also drove superbly through the covers.

Despite all their starts and managing one more fifty-plus score than Australia did, India had one hundred to show against the hosts’ three, all of them bigger than Kohli’s score.

Rohit Sharma, who has had a difficult time in away Tests, looked in fine touch during his unbeaten 33, and Wriddhiman Saha survived a bouncer barrage from Johnson, but India were still playing catch-up with a deficit of 148.

On Test captaincy debut, on the ground where he had scored his maiden Test century, Virat Kohli made his seventh hundred to lead India’s reply to Australia’s 7 for 517 declared. India would have been in a better position had M Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane pushed on after reaching half-centuries on the easy-paced Adelaide pitch.

They would have still been in a reasonably solid position had Kohli not taken on a Mitchell Johnson short ball and top-edged a pull to long leg with four overs left in the day. Kohli departed for 115, leaving 119 as his highest Test score, with a corresponding ODI mark of 183.

Barring the opening stand of 30, the next four partnerships were all 70-plus, Kohli the common factor in three of them. Kohli came into Adelaide having tallied 134 runs in ten Test innings in England. He ducked into a Johnson bouncer first ball, hit flush on the front of the helmet. There was concern among the Australians, most particularly Johnson, visibly strained about the blow with Phillip Hughes’ death on his mind. Kohli steadied himself and won every crucial moment against Australia’s premier fast bowler from thereon, till his downfall.

Three balls after the hit, he strode forward to drive Johnson down the ground for three. First ball from Johnson after lunch, he leaned on the front foot to drive through extra cover for four. First delivery from Johnson with the second new ball. Same result. Three balls later, he punched off the back foot. Same result. Johnson went for 90 in 16 overs leading up to Kohli’s depature.

Australia’s fast bowlers were not able to get much more out of the easy-paced Adelaide pitch than India’s attack had, apart from the occasional Johnson lifters. They pitched it up often, but there was little conventional or reverse swing, and Kohli helped himself to some emphatic drives and clips. He came through a period of discomfort against the offspinner Nathan Lyon to milk him for runs off the back foot.