Johannesburg: Virat Kohli's century held India together through a taxing start to the Test series against South Africa, with the tourists ending the first day of the opening Test on 255-5 at the Wanderers on Wednesday. (Scorecard | Highlights | Photos)
Kohli fell for 119 in the final session for his fifth century and highest Test score, having almost single-handedly lifted the visitors following a shaky start. (Can Virat Kohli fill Sachin Tendulkar's shoes?)
Kohli hit 18 fours and faced 181 balls to defy the Proteas, sharing an 89-run stand with Cheteshwar Pujara (25) for the third wicket and putting on 68 for the fifth wicket with Ajinkya Rahane (43 not out). Yet, the lack of any long-term support for him meant India was still delicately placed after the first skirmishes of the series.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was unbeaten on 17 at stumps with Rahane, who played impressively in only his second test. (Virat Kohli's No.4 quest begins with a high)
South Africa's famed seamers shared four wickets; Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Jacques Kallis all picking up one each.
Pujara was run out to break India's best partnership and Kohli's role in that mix-up was the only blemish in his stay at the wicket. But he redeemed himself by reaching three figures and he leapt into the air, fist pumping, to celebrate his century on his ascension to Sachin Tendulkar's No. 4 spot in India's batting order.
This two-test contest began predictably on the pacey pitch in Johannesburg. (Virat Kohli promised to score a ton: Coach)
South Africa unleashed a barrage of quick, often short-pitched bowling at India on one of the country's quickest tracks. And with the exception of Kohli, India's top-order struggled to deal with the menace of Steyn and Morkel as Shikhar Dhawan miscued an early hook shot to be caught off Steyn for 13 and Murali Vijay edged behind for 6 after being roughed up by Morkel.
Steyn peppered Dhawan with short balls before the left-hander top-edged to Imran Tahir at fine leg. Vijay survived a chance at short leg, and played and missed regularly, before nicking behind to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.
Kohli battled his way in and pounced on a brief respite to hit leg-spinner Tahir for two blazing fours through midwicket in the last over before lunch. That appeared to give him and India some impetus after the visitors struggled to score more than two runs an over in the morning. Kohli even dominated South Africa's attack at times in the afternoon session, greeting one Steyn spell with a crunching straight drive to the fence in the midst of his counterattack.
Pujara dug in for his 25, facing 98 balls and hitting just two fours as India passed 100. But in a monetary lapse, Kohli appeared to call his partner through for a sharp single and then change his mind, leaving Pujara stranded in the middle. Rohit Sharma fell for 14 to a flimsy cover drive wide outside off stump when he edged behind, and India lurched again at 151-4.
But Rahane marked his recall with a mature innings from No. 6. He hit seven fours but also ensured South Africa didn't expose India's tail by the end of the first day.