ICC World Cup: No flair, but Virat Kohli keeps date with 49th ODI ton

It will be no exaggeration to say that Kohli, playing his fourth and possibly career's last 50-overs World Cup, is enjoying the aura of a Sachin Tendulkar in the 2011 edition

Virat Kohli gave a perfect birthday treat to his fans at the Eden on Sunday
Virat Kohli gave a perfect birthday treat to his fans at the Eden on Sunday

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A key component in the DNA of sports champions is their unique ability to cut out the noise and focus on the job at hand. Virat Kohli, the birthday boy at the Eden in their highly billed match today, showed it once more as he played a waiting game to reach his as 49th ODI century (101 not out) as India grafted their way to a potentially match-winning total of 326 for five wickets.

The South African top six had been in excellent form so far and are certainly capable of giving it a go, but the two-paced Eden wicket will not be making their job any easier. It will be pertinent to remember that of the six wins in their seven games so far, five have come while batting first while they survived a big scare to chase down a 270-odd target against Pakistan.

It will perhaps be no exaggeration to say that the master batter, playing his fourth and last 50-overs World Cup this year, is enjoying the aura of a Sachin Tendulkar in the 2011 edition.

The contest at the Eden, billed as a ‘dress rehearsal’ for the final, failed to overshadow a sense of occasion as the man turned 35 with all the stakeholders jumping on the bandwagon – from the crowd, official broadcasters and of course, the ever-obliging media.

Kohli, however, was unmoved as he had a date to keep with Tendulkar’s record 49 centuries. As the Indian innings went through ebb and flow after a rollicking start by captain Rohit Sharma (40), the champion realised that a waiting game was necessary to combat the spin duo of South Africa on a sluggish wicket.

Keshav Maharaj, the left-arm orthodox spinner, kept Kohli and number four Shreyas Iyer on a tight leash as he almost came close to scalping the former Indian captain in the 21st over.

It was a dream delivery for a left-arm spinner, much like the one with which he got Shubman Gill bowled earlier, which pitched on mid-leg and looked like to have got the edge off Kohli’s bat on way to wicketkeeper De Kock. Kohli survived the DRS and prodded on with Iyer playing the more aggressive partner – taking 67 deliveries and 91 minutes to reach his half-century.

The majestic cover drives were missing as the slowness of the wicket saw him mistiming several of his shots. A scratchy, but useful 134-run partnership for third wicket between Kohli and Iyer (77) ended when the latter mistimed a big shot off Lungi Ngidi and the consistent KL Rahul also failed soon after.

Speaking to the broadcasters later, Kohli revealed that the wicket got progressively tougher to bat on. Incidentally, Ravindra Jadeja’s quickfire 29 off 15 balls helped India reach a par score and could prove to be decisive in the end.

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