Kohli century keeps India alive in ODI series against South Africa

Kohli century keeps India alive in ODI series against South Africa

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Virat Kohli struck a spectacular century to help set up India’s 35-run victory over South Africa in the fourth One-Dayer at the Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Thursday. This levels the five-match series 2-2 and the decider will be played in Mumbai on October 25.

Brief scores: India 299-8 in 50 overs (V Kohli 138, A Rahane 45, S Raina 53, D Steyn 3-61, K Rabada 3-54) bt South Africa 264-9 in 50 overs (AB de Villiers 112, Q de Kock 43, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-69, Harbhajan Singh 2-50).

Kohli hit 138 off 140 balls with six fours and five sixes for his 23rd ODI century to lift the hosts to a competitive 299-8 after opting to bat first in a must-win, day-night match they went into, trailing 1-2 in the series.

South Africa skipper AB de Villiers carved out a stunning 112 for his second hundred of the series and the 22nd of his ODI career to keep the visitors in the hunt despite a top-order collapse.

It was only after de Villiers was dismissed in the 45th over, caught behind off pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar as the seventh man to fall, that India could afford to breathe easy. The tourists finished at 264-9 in 50 overs.

“It was important that bowlers took the responsibility, so I shuffled them up and the three spinners were good. The fast bowlers also have to do their job and finish their quote of 10, or at least nine overs so I decided not to use a part-time bowler,” said Dhoni at the prize-giving ceremony.

South Africa was missing JP Duminy and fast bowler Morne Morkel owing to injuries and opted to play with two specialist spinners, left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso joining leg-break bowler Imran Tahir in the XI with all-rounder Chris Morris getting a look-in.

India lost both the openers by the eighth over, and it was the 104-run stand for the third wicket between Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane (45), who was promoted to No. 4, that set the base for a strong Indian total. Rahane was dismissed caught behind off quick Dale Steyn, but Kohli, who brought up his century with a six off left-arm spinner Phangiso, found able support from Suresh Raina, who returned to form with a solid fifty (53).

The fourth wicket pair of Kohli and Raina put on 127 before Raina was caught at mid-wicket off Steyn while trying to force the pace, and this brought skipper Mahendra Dhoni to the middle with the score on 270 for four in 45 overs.

Kohli, who scored 77 in the previous game, fell in the 49th over, caught behind off fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who dismissed Harbhajan Singh clean bowled next ball, to finish with 3-54. Steyn dismissed Dhoni (15) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar off the final two deliveries of the innings to finish with 3-61.

“The cramps are fine now and the physio told me not to take a chance because I might tear a muscle or two if I sprint or something and the fifth match is still left. It was pretty difficult because there wasn't much breeze during the day when it was hot. If AB (de Villiers) starts cramping then you know how hard it is because he is one of the fittest people around,” said Man of the Match Kohli.

Kohli became only the fifth international batsman after Ricky Ponting, Herschelle Gibbs, Sachin Tendulkar and Hashim Amla to score ODI hundreds against all Test playing nations.

South Africa lost their first four wickets for 88, as India’s three-man spin attack piled on the pressure, conceding just 32 runs between the 10th and 20th overs while claiming three wickets.

The dangerous de Villiers put on 97 runs along with Farhaan Behardien (22) and Morris (9), but leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s wicket of Behardien lbw was crucial as the pair had the best chance of turning things around.

De Villiers reached his hundred with a six off Mishra, and despite Morris being run out, kept South Africa in the hunt before falling when the side needed 67 from 33 deliveries.

De Villiers, who struggled with cramps, said, “It was a hard-fought game and I loved the way the boys fought till the end. It was a pretty tough wicket to play on and Virat (Kohli) assessed the conditions very well early on. The ball was turning quite a bit and I got a few away at the end, I worked hard and hopefully we'll take some positives to Mumbai.” 

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