74 in Adelaide, 79 in Cape Town, 76 in Centurion.
These innings are not as iconic as 153, 149 and 123, scored in Centurion, Birmingham and Perth, respectively, all in 2018. However, these knocks will still be a relevant part of Virat Kohli’s career, given the travails attached to them.
Kohli is known to be a fighter. While most of his hundreds have had an invincible factor, these knocks above were when he fought his way through testing conditions.
In SENA Tests post the Australia tour in 2019, Kohli averages only 30.4 in 25 Test innings. In comparison, in the 2018 cycle alone, when India toured South Africa, England and Australia one after the other, he averaged 50.5 with three sublime hundreds.
But that was the Kohli of the old. Post 2019, his fortunes changed. The various chinks in his batting were found out, and there were questions if he could adapt to do away from his propensity to come on the front foot.
While this incessant habit has undone Kohli, there have been times he has denied himself to keep the team floating. That is what connects Adelaide, Cape Town and Centurion.
Kohli was looking in flow during the first innings in the recently concluded Boxing Day Test in Centurion when a peach from Kagiso Rabada found his outside edge. A general consensus was that he could have left the ball if not for his front foot stride.
Kohli was in complete control during the second innings. While the others capitulated around him, the 35-year-old looked at his best in a long time while playing overseas.
The former skipper took 11 balls to get off the mark. But things changed once he welcomed Marco Jansen into the attack with a sumptuous off-drive down the ground. Kohli was in control while stamping the authority of his class, implementing his drives down the ground. He was not shy about attacking the loose balls, yet the cautiousness in his batting while playing outside the off stump was palpable.
Each shot oozed class. The flat six over cover-point, a lofted square cut executed by pure timing, was probably the shot of the match.
Kohli’s approach indicated there were not many demons on the pitch. Yet, all he saw from the other end was fall of wickets, most of which were soft dismissals. The game's outcome was inevitable once India lost KL Rahul and Ravichandran Ashwin in quick succession. The only thing left to be seen was whether Kohli can raze off the innings deficit batting with the tail.
Alas, Kohli ran out of partners. With only one wicket in hand, his task was cut out - to find boundaries. However, the challenge was steeper than before as the Proteas placed their fielders on the ropes for the first four to five balls of the over. Eventually, Kohli fell to a pretty good catch in the deep for 76. India went down by an innings and 32 runs. Kohli and Gill (26) were the only batters to get into the double figures. It was not a hundred for Kohli, but probably the best he has batted with back against the wall since 2019.
In Adelaide, he was run out through no fault of his own in a terrible mix-up. In Cape Town and Centurion, he ran out of partners. None of these innings ended with a triple-figure score. But after redeeming himself in ODIs and T20s this year, the Delhiite also seems to be showing similar shades in overseas Tests.
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