Virat Kohli

Indian batter Virat Kohli plays a shot during the ICC World Cup 2023 match between India and South Africa, at Eden Gardens, in Kolkata, Sunday, November 5. Photo: PTI

Virat Kohli scores laborious 49th ODI hundred on a tricky pitch

Kolkata, Nov 5 (PTI) The 'chase master' had a different target on a Super Sunday. The aim was to chase the original 'master'.

Virat Kohli, on his 35th birthday, was rewarded for his unwavering dedication and remarkable consistency as he equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s world record of 49 ODI hundreds - in only 277 innings. Phenomenal is the only word that comes to mind.

The record is an ode to Kohli's determination to bring down almost all the existing batting records.

However Kohli's celebration was muted after getting that century off 119 balls. It seemed there was more relief than elation and one couldn't but revisit Tendulkar's epic 100th hundred and the 49th ODI ton in Mirpur back in 2012.

The 114 off 147 balls wasn't Tendulkar's best effort and neither is Kohli's ton in Kolkata among his top-10 ODI hundreds.

"The 49 ODI hundreds record is not my record, it's India's record. As long as it stays with India, I am happy," Tendulkar said in a statement to media.

The stage was set, the party had begun in the afternoon itself when Rohit Sharma served the appetizer with a 40 that was as juicy as the shammi kebabs that one gets at the Park Street eateries.

Birthday boy Virat Kohli stepped in with 67,000 people bracing for a succulent main course -- a record-equalling 49th ODI hundred.

Having missed out in Dharamsala and Mumbai, Kohli was determined to get the 'monkey off his back' in the 'city of joy'.

The thousands of smart phone torch-lights were ready for that moment when a tap towards cover off Kagiso Rabada got him the milestone.

It was more of a battle of attrition as he played as many as 55 dot balls. That's 9.1 overs without a run and another interesting statistical nugget is that only one of his 10 boundaries came off spinners and it was Aiden Markram, the part-time off-break bowler.

Proteas' leg theory works ================= While analysing Kohli's batting today, one needs to take into account that India scored 100 runs in 13.1 overs and certainly looked good for a total of 375.

Virat faced 56 deliveries from the two left-arm spinners - Keshav Maharaj (29 balls) and Tabraiz Shamsi (27 balls) and scored 35 runs in all.

Off Maharaj, he got 16 that had 14 singles, mostly whipped down to the deep mid-wicket region.

Shamsi gave away 19, including 13 singles.

The two spinners, interestingly didn't concede a single boundary to Kohli. Even more fascinating was a 10-ball over from Shamsi (due to the four wides) where Kohli mis-timed four pull-shots off rank bad balls.

"It was a wicket that was tricky to bat on, we got a great start from Rohit and Shubman. My job was to keep it going on. The ball started gripping and turning, it slowed down and then my role was to bat deep. That was what was communicated to me by the team management," Kohli told host broadcasters during the innings break.

However the same Shamsi was hit for five fours and a six in all - four of them by Shreyas Iyer and was swept confidently twice by Suryakumar Yadav.

Maharaj was exceptional during the innings as he didn’t concede a single boundary.

Now what exactly did the two left-arm spinners did? Save the ball that beat Shubman Gill's outside edge, Maharaj stuck to leg-middle line and Shamsi, as a wrist spinner, bowled his stock delivery, that turns into a right hander.

During the middle-overs, Temba Bavuma employed a square leg and shortish mid-wicket on the leg-side inside the 30-yard circle along with a deep mid-wicket and fine-leg at the boundary.

Now Kohli isn't a natural sweeper or slog sweeper against slow bowlers. Once they bowled the leg-middle line with the occasional ball gripping, all he did was to try the tuck off his hips but the area was cordoned and hence it didn't work for him.

Those who watched India's Test match against England in Bengaluru back in 2001, would remember how Nasser Hussain very effectively used Ashley Giles to break Tendulkar's rhythm with leg-stump line.

But that was a Test match with no fielding restrictions and this was ODIs and hence Bavuma and his bowlers would get credit for perfect execution.

In fact, Iyer, looked better during that phase as he started using his feet and also played the inside out over extra cover effectively. At the end of the 40th over, Kohli was batting on 75 off 95 balls and by the end of the innings, he scored another 26 off 26 balls. The last 10 overs yielded 87 and the remaining 61 runs from other batters came off 34 balls.

Kohli had his reason to justify the pace of his innings.

"We don't have Hardik in the team, so we knew a wicket or two could cost us, we had to dig deep and take the match deep," he said. From one angle it might appear selfish that he chased his hundred but it is also true that when you not do not have Pandya for a flourishing finish and Mohammed Shami is slated to bat at number eight, Kohli had to change his approach and go safe.

It won't matter much though in the final outcome as India are already through to the semifinals. PTI

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)
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