Honours fairly even at the Wanderers


India batsman Virat Kohli starred with a career best 119 on day one of the first Test between South Africa and India in Johannesburg.

India batsman Virat Kohli starred with a career best 119 on day one of the first Test between South Africa and India in Johannesburg.

While the weatherman predicted that rain could interrupt play, it turned out to be perfect playing conditions at the Wanderers where the visiting side finished the day on a satisfactory 255 for five.

What was initially a somewhat shaky start by the visitors, who lost both their openers fairly cheaply, soon transformed into a good day at the office thanks to Kohli providing top class entertainment for most of the day.

His innings, coupled with a few sublime spells by the South Africa bowlers, not only highlighted why these sides top the ICCs Test rankings, it brought into perspective why Cape Town residents are so gutted that boardroom politics had cost them the opportunity to see these world beating sides in the flesh.

Judging by the general standard of play that was on display at the Bullring, even a three match series between these sides would probably have failed to quench the thirst of cricket connoisseurs who have been waiting for this showdown to take place.

But here we are now and just like the Proteas pace-attack discovered on day one, sometimes it is important to be accept that all you can do is make the best of a poor situation.

After a very positive start to proceeding where they dismissed openers Shikhar Dhawan (13) and Murali Vijay (6), South Africa allowed Kohli to settle and form a partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara, who anchored the innings with great distinction.

While Pujara did his best to rotate the strike, Kohli capitalized every time he was offered width and never hesitated to take the battle to the opposition bowlers.

Kohli would go on to play many spectacular shots; or in Indian cricket terms, shots usually associated with the most memorable number four batsmen of all time.

One of his successes lay in the fact that he never allowed the opposing bowlers to get under his skin, which they tried to do throughout his perfectly balanced innings.

Dealing with the pace of the wicket wasn't the nightmare many had envisioned either and on that front credit needed to go to skipper MS Dhoni for electing to bat when he won the toss.

India's batsmen had a torrid time in the ODI arena and a repetition of that was always on the card when considering the class of their opponents.

Dhoni may have learned that clear skies on the first morning would make for perfect batting conditions later in the day, while the pendulum usually swings in favour of the fielding side if there is sufficient cloud cover.

Credit therefore has to go to Vijay for the work the time the spent at the crease in what was always going to be a crucial period. He faced 69 balls for his six runs.

Kohli's outstanding day at the office continued through the tea interval and was capped of with an eccentric jump when he crossed and completed the second run off a JP Duminy delivery which saw him to his fourth Test ton.

He would, however, not like to see a repeat of Pujara's dismissal as he was at fault in his partner's run out.

Nonetheless, Kohli's shot selection and patience at the crease proved to be the key to unlocking the most feared attack in world cricket, while his refusal to be intimidated by the Proteas pace-bowlers would also have done wonders to the confidence levels of all the batsmen in his team.

It took something special form the seasoned Jacques Kallis to claim his wicket as he never looked like playing a bad shot.

Once Kallis had Kohli removed for his career best total there was an upturn in the attitude of the Proteas, but they would have to settle for Rohit Sharma's scalp as their only other success of the day.

Sharma (44) looked settled but was slightly on the ambitious side when he nicked-off to give Philander his first wicket.

At the close of play Dhoni (17*) looked comfortable at the crease with Ajinkya Rahane edging towards what would be a maiden Test 50.