Virat Kohli brought up his highest Test score of 119 to help India to 255 for five at the close of play on day one of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
The 25-year-old – tasked with filling the gaping void in Test cricket left by the retired Sachin Tendulkar – strolled to the wicket at 24 for two.
Proteas bowling coach Allan Donald said the innings was reminiscent of Tendulkar. "Kohli really composed himself well today," said Donald after play.
"It reminds me of a Sachin Tendulkar. When the odds were against India back in 1996 and I was the first one to say India didn't show much bottle.
"The one person that always jumps out at you that plays the situation and for the team was Tendulkar."
With the South African pace attack on top, Kohli steadily increased the scoring rate to relieve the pressure as he brought up his fifth test century. Throughout his innings, Kohli found the boundary with ease as he picked up 16 fours.
Kohli took a particular liking to part-time bowler JP Duminy as he brought up his century off 140 balls in the 63rd over of the day. Together with Ajinkya Rahane (43 not out), Kohli shared in a fifth wicket partnership of 68, and India were in a dominant position before the Proteas got the breakthrough. Kohli was eventually out as he lost concentration when he stroked a stock Jacques Kallis delivery straight to a grateful Duminy in the covers.
Kohli said it was one of his major ambitions to score a Test century in South Africa. "During the entire Australia ODI series I was just thinking of getting a Test hundred in South Africa," said Kohli. "Now it's just about building on it."
At the close of play, captain MS Dhoni (17 not out) and Rahane were unbeaten as they put on 36 for the sixth wicket.
Earlier, the Proteas took two wickets in each of the first two sessions. But, it was at the start of the day when the South Africans looked as if they were going to run through the Indian batting lineup.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander opened the bowling for South Africa, and with a plethora of bouncers they starved their opponents of runs as India hobbled along at under two runs per over for most of the first session.
Steyn won the first battle of the aggressors against Shikhar Dhawan who was out for 13. Dhawan, after two unsuccessful pull shots earlier in the over, was out pulling Steyn off the final delivery of the ninth over.
With a fast bouncer, Steyn found the top edge of the bat and Imran Tahir, running in from fine leg, took the catch well inside the boundary.
Murali Vijay (6) followed next after he was outsmarted by Morne Morkel, who came on as first change.
Morkel peppered the Indian opener with short deliveries and was rewarded for his efforts. Attempting a drive, Vijay edged a full ball outside off through to AB de Villiers, leaving India on 24 for two in the 16th over.
After lunch, Kohli and Cheteshwar Pujara (25) had put on a partnership of 89 off 167 balls and were looking to take the game from the hosts, when disaster struck for India. A mix-up in the middle between Kohli and Pujara resulted in a run out. Kohli, facing Imran Tahir, attempted a quick single on the onside, with the bowler fielding and throwing the ball to Hashim Amla who did the rest to leave Pujara stranded.
The wicket brought Rohit Sharma (14) to the middle, but he departed as he edged a Philander delivery to De Villiers leaving India on 151 for four. – Sapa