ADELAIDE, Australia (AFP) – Stand-in skipper Virat Kohli survived a fearsome blow on the helmet from a Mitchell Johnson bouncer as he scored a defiant century to keep India in the first Test against Australia Thursday.
Kohli was heavily struck by the first ball he faced from Johnson, briefly setting nerves jangling following last month’s freak death of Australian batsman Phillip Hughes.
But he went on to register his third Test ton against Australia as India reached 369 for five at stumps on day three, trailing the hosts’ overnight first-innings declaration of 517 for seven.
Kohli was out for 115, three overs from stumps, when he hooked Johnson to Ryan Harris at fine leg.
Rohit Sharma was not out 33 with wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha on one, after surviving a Johnson peppering, to place the tourists 148 runs behind with two days left.
It was Kohli’s second Test hundred in Adelaide after his 116 almost three years ago at the famous ground.
The tourists easily negotiated the follow-on target of 318 on the placid Adelaide pitch to raise have hopes of taking an innings lead.
It didn’t start well with Kohli ducking into the path of Johnson’s menacing bouncer, which thudded into the front of his helmet.
After a few moments of concern from the fielders, the Indian captain continued.
Australian batsman Hughes was fatally struck by a rising ball late last month, plunging the cricketing world into mourning.
While Kohli went on to reach three figures, Murali Vijay (53), Cheteshwar Pujara (73) and Ajinkya Rahane (62) all wasted good starts, failing to emulate Australia’s three first-innings centurions – Steve Smith (162 not out), David Warner (145) and Michael Clarke (128).
Kohli is captaining India in the absence of wicketkeeper M.S. Dhoni, who is recovering from a hairline fracture of his thumb and is expected to resume his post for next week’s second Test in Brisbane.
Before lunch Johnson removed Vijay, who had looked threatening in reaching his seventh half-century off 88 balls with three fours and two sixes.
Vijay slammed off-spinner Nathan Lyon for both sixes, while Pujara missed his chance of a first Test century in Australia when he was bowled in unfortunate circumstances by off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
Pujara played a defensive shot, but the ball dribbled off the bat and on to the stumps.
Rahane, playing his first Test in Australia, became Lyon’s second victim for 62 off 76 balls.
Rahane played back but the ball hit the rough and popped up off the glove for Shane Watson to accept an easy catch.
Lyon, coming off an underwhelming series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where he took three Test wickets at an average of 140, was Australia’s best bowler with two for 103 off 30 overs, while Johnson claimed two wickets.