New Delhi: Skipper Virat Kohli roared back to form with a scintillating unbeaten 83 as India further consolidated their position with whopping overall lead of 403 runs at stumps on the third day of the fourth and final cricket Test against South Africa here on Saturday.
India were 190 for four in their second innings courtesy 133-run stand for the fifth wicket between Kohli and first innings centurion Ajinkya Rahane before play was called off a little early because of bad light at the Feroz Shah Kotla stadium.
Rahane started from where he left in the first innings remaining unbeaten on a patient 52 as India pressed for a 3-0 series rout against the hapless visitors who managed to dismiss Murali Vijay (3), Rohit Sharma (0), Shikhar Dhawan (21) and Cheteshwar Pujara (28) in quick succession.
With two full days left in the game, India may bat till lunch time tomorrow and look at a lead of 450 plus before declaring the innings. South Africa will then have to bat out of the skin to prevent another heavy defeat.
Kohli, who notched up his first 50 plus score in the series played 154 balls hitting 10 crisp boundaries. This was his 12th Test half-century and he is now only 11 runs short of completing 3000 runs in Test cricket.
Rahane, who showed much more restraint, took 152 balls to hit five boundaries in his innings. In fact his 50 came off 146 balls compared to Kohli's milestone that was achieved in only 70 balls.
Kohli's innings was a mixture of elegance and power. When he muscled off-spinner Dane Piedt through covers, it was power of wrists but the moment Kyle Abbott bowled one shade outside the off-stump, it was elegance personified as he opened his bat face to gently guide it through vacant third-man region. He repeated that same shot off Morne Morkel when reached into the 80s.
Kohli looked determined from the start as he wanted to make this opportunity count as this will be India's last Test match for at least next six months (in case they host Bangladesh at home for a single Test).
In fact, when he reached his half-century, the celebrations were pretty muted by his standards he just raised his bat for a second towards the section of school children who were cheering him vociferously.
It was also the first time in the series that a pair from either side have put on a 100-run stand.
A very interesting piece of statistic that emerged was the fact that it took 115 partnerships throughout the entire series to get a single century stand.
The only blemish for Kohli would be the fact that he stood his ground when umpire ruled him caught behind on 5 trying to cut Imran Tahir. He stood there angrily for at least 10-15 seconds before slowly trudging back when umpire Bruce Oxenford decided to refer it for no-ball.
The skipper was lucky as replays showed that Tahir had overstepped. But there could be some monetary sanction for showing displeasure to the umpire's decision.
The best bowler for South Africa undoubtedly was Morne Morkel (3/29 in 17 overs), who bowled a scorching yorker to get Dhawan out.
The duo came together when India were reeling at 57 for four as they took the score past three-figure mark. Their 50- run partnership for the fifth wicket was achieved in only 81 minutes after playing 101 balls.
Obviously, the huge first innings lead and the amount of time left in the game ensured that they could play freely.
Kohli hit a glorious cover drive off Abbott, one past backward point off Morkel and tucked one to square leg boundary as he quickly reached 30. Rahane, on the other hand, was happy to nudge and push around letting his captain play the role of an aggressor.
In between, a standout shot was a clip off his hips to dispatch Morkel to the boundary.
Earlier, India started the day on a disastrous note as they lost Vijay to a lethal short ball bowled by Morkel. The tall speedster hit the back of length area as the ball kicked up viciously.
The normally technically sound Vijay tried to awkwardly fend it off as he tried to get out of the way. The ball looked like brushing his armguards before being taken by Dane Vilas behind the stumps as he timed his jump to perfection.
The Indian team management promoted Rohit Sharma at number three, trying to give him some valuable time with less pressure and a sizeable lead on the board. But the Mumbai lad again disappointed his fans as Morkel bowled one fuller that move a shade to rattle his off-stump.
Pujara, who sustained a bruise in his forearm yesterday and could not field, carried on till lunch session. He whipped Dane Piedt through midwicket for a boundary while he faced some difficulty while facing Abbott as he got a couple of streaky boundaries.
Dhawan, however, was more assured against Abbott as he twice hit off-drives to collect his boundaries but was apparently more cautious against the spinners as he failed to get the scoreboard moving during his 86-ball stay.
The Pujara-Dhawan duo added 45 runs but South Africa again struck in the post-lunch session.
First it was Pujara (who played 79 balls) who tried to cut one from Tahir that stayed low and knocked his off-stump.
But then it took a beauty from Morkel to get rid of Dhawan. The speedster came from round the wicket and bowled a toe-crushing inswinging yorker that hit the base of leg stump even as the local boy tried bringing his bat down.