Virat Kohli roared back to form with a superbly crafted century on a tricky pitch to take India to a comfortable 267 for three against New Zealand on Day 1 of the third and final Test match at the Holkar stadium in Indore, on Saturday.
The Indian skipper, who went without a 50-plus score in his last seven innings across five Tests, was back in his elements, stroking an unbeaten 103 — his 13th hundred in his 48th match. Kohli’s century was also the first by any batsman from the either side in this three-match series.He was complemented brilliantly by Ajinkya Rahane, who was scratchy to begin with but settled down well to remain unbeaten on 79.
The duo added 167 runs for the unbroken fourth wicket in 54 overs after New Zealand had initially pegged India back at 100 for three in 36 overs.
Kohli, whose century came off 184 balls, reached his milestone with a scampered single, surviving a direct hit at the non-striker’s end. In all he played 191 deliveries on the day hitting 10 boundaries while Rahane’s 172 ball knock had nine boundaries and a big six over square leg off Jeetan Patel.
Earlier, comeback man Gautam Gambhir (29) made a sparkling start hitting a couple of pulled sixes off pacer Matt Henry but could not capitalise on the chance that he got after more than two years as Trent Boult trapped him before wicket.
Murali Vijay (10) was dismissed cheaply by Jeetan Patel while Cheteshwar Pujara (41) was set for a big knock before he got a beauty from left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
For New Zealand, Santner had the best figures with one for 53 in 19 overs while Boult claimed one for 54 in 16 overs.
Kohli, whose previous highest in the series was a crucial 45 in the second innings of the second Test in Kolkata, build the Indian innings in the company of Rahane, who played the ball on merit and eschewed risky shots to build the partnership brick by brick.
They went into tea at a score of 148 for three before lifting the tempo in the post-tea session as New Zealand’s bowlers looked totally clueless.
Pujara, who looked assured, departed in the first hour of play after lunch to be the third batsman dismissed within the first hour’s play after lunch for 41, inclusive of six hits to the fence, in 108 balls.
His exit, with India on 100, brought together Kohli, who played it safe with an occasional aggressive shot.
The hosts were pegged back by some intelligent bowling on a helpful track by the Kiwi spin duo of Patel and Santner under overcast conditions.
Kohli used caution as he and Rahane could add just 36 in 15 overs in the first hour of play post lunch.
Rahane was once struck on the forearm by Henry and the ball ballooned up to be caught in the slips while Kohli edged Patel between wicketkeeper and finely placed first slip closer to the tea break.
The home team had progressed slowly from lunch score of 75 for two, adding 73 runs in 30 overs in the post lunch period of play.
India had lost both openers in the new-look combination during the pre-lunch session after choosing to bat first.
Vijay fell to off-spinner Jeetan Patel in the fifth over, caught brilliantly at short leg by Tom Latham off a firm flick. Gambhir, playing with an open stance, started off well and played some audacious shots, including two pulled sixes in successive balls from Henry, before going into a defensive mould and falling leg before to left arm pace bowler Boult in the 20th over.