Virat Kohli slammed a brilliant 138 before the bowlers produced an impressive performance as India comfortably beat South Africa by 35 runs to level the series 2-2, in Chennai Thursday, PTI reports.

Kohli smashed 138 off 140 balls with the help of six fours and five sixes
Kohli smashed 138 off 140 balls with the help of six fours and five sixes

Courtesy Kohli’s century, India piled up a commendable 299 for 8 in 50 overs and then restricted South Africa to 264 for 9 despite a classy hundred by their captain AB de Villiers.

In the end, Kohli’s 23rd ODI hundred proved to be a shade better effort than De Villiers’ 22nd ton in the final context of the match. If Kohli’s innings was about asserting his supremacy in the limited overs format, De Villiers was innovation personified hitting all round the wicket.

Credit should be given to India’s spin troika of Harbhajan Singh (2/50), Axar Patel (1/40) and Amit Mishra (1/55) for using the conditions well along with pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/68), who got the prize scalp of opposition captain.

The series will now be decided at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium in the final ODI scheduled to be played on October 25.

De Villiers battled cramps to race to century but his superb 107-ball-112 could not get the Proteas home. The South African skipper hit 10 fours and two sixes fighting valiantly before a slow bouncer from Bhuvneshwar saw him try a flat batted shot which ended up as a thickish edge into Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s hands.

It was De Villiers’ dismissal in the 45th over that decisively tilted scales in India’s favour. When the chase started, Hashim Amla’s (7) woeful run in the series continued as he pulled one straight to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-wicket.

Gauging that the pitch was dry and turn was on offer, Harbhajan was brought in the attack as early as the 9th over.

The ‘Turbantor’ looked dangerous in each of his six overs in the first spell while he got a bit of stick towards the end to finish with 2/50 in 10 overs.

He got the wicket of last match centurion Quinton de Kock (35) just when he was taking on the attack.

It was a classical off-spinner’s delivery where he enticed De Kock for a drive with a flighted delivery that spun away from the left-hander taking the outside edge which was held by Ajinkya Rahane at second slip.

Faf du Plessis (17) was a bit ruffled as a powerful hit from De Villiers hit his elbow. He was soon dismissed when he was adjudged caught behind off Axar bowling. While Du Plessis looked unhappy, the snickometer showed some noise when the ball passed the bat.

From 79 for 3, it soon became 88 for four when Harbhajan bowled one that straightened sufficiently after pitching to hit David Miller (6) plumb in-front.

However De Villiers countered the turn with footwork as he got a partner in Farhaan Behardien (22) as they steadily built a partnership of 56 runs for the fifth wicket.

It was leg-spinner Mishra, who accounted for Behardien in the 32nd over which turned out to be a wicket-maiden.

Dhoni praises Kohli, bowlers

Praising centurion Kohli for his superb batting in the series, Indian skipper Dhoni said it was the first game in which his team did well in all three departments — team performance, batting and bowling.

“As a total team we did well, bowled well and batted well. They (batsmen) need to give themselves a bit more time and that was the reason to promote (Suresh) Raina; after he gets going he can play the big shots. Everyone has scored runs in the series now so that’s good going into the last match. Virat batted exceedingly well and assessed the conditions well,” Dhoni said after the match.

Dhoni had a word of praise for his bowlers.

“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 quota of 10, or at least nine overs so I decided not to use a part-time bowler,” he said.

“It always feels good when you get a century and the team wins, and while chasing I like it because you get a chance to finish the game. Any century in a winning cause is always special,” said the Test skipper.

Kohli praised De Villiers 112-run knock that made him uneasy in the dressing room, “I told him (de Villiers) in the dressing room — my heart was in my mouth when he was batting, he plays unbelievable shots. He’s a very modest man too, never praises himself so I’ll do that for him. The credit goes to him, he fought it out.”

It was mutual admiration as De Villiers also praised Kohli for his match-winning knock.

“It was a pretty tough wicket to play on and Virat 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,” said De Villiers.

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