INDORE, Oct 8: Virat Kohli roared back to form with a superbly crafted century on a tricky pitch to take India to a comfortable 267 for 3 against New Zealand on the first day of the third cricket Test here.
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 the 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 3 in 36 overs.
While it wasn�t a treacherous pitch to bat on, it was indeed a tricky surface which got slower with passage of time and both Kohli and Rahane displayed excellent batsmanship during their unbroken stand.
Kohli�s 100 came off 184 balls. 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�s delivery.
Kohli, on the other hand, reached his milestone with a scampered single, surviving a direct hit at the non-striker�s end. Once the third umpire ruled �Not Out�, the celebrations were muted by standards of the Indian captain even as a vocal crowd at the Holkar Stadium gave him a standing ovation.
Earlier, comeback man Gautam Gambhir (29) made a good 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 found him plumb in-front.
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 1 for 53 in 19 overs while Boult was a shade behind with 1/54 in 16 overs. Patel gave away 65 in 24 overs for his wicket.
Kohli � his previous highest in the series being a crucial 45 in the second innings at Kolkata, along with Rahane 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 3 and then started batting with more aggression while exercising caution.
Later in the day the duo also played out 10 overs off the second new ball as it yielded 38 runs in that phase.
With still some batting left, India � who won the toss and elected to bat, would be looking at a total in excess of at least 450 for the first time in the rubber in which they have taken an unassailable 2-0 lead by winning the first two games in Kanpur and Kolkata.
Earlier in the day, India lost a well-set Cheteshwar Pujara in the post-lunch session after openers Vijay and Gambhir were dismissed in the session before lunch.
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 occasional aggressive shots.
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.
India 1st innings: M Vijay c Latham b Patel 10, G Gambhir lbw b Boult 29, C Pujara b Santner 41, V Kohli not out 103, A Rahane not out 79; Extras: (B-1, LB-2, NB-2) 5. Total: (For 3 wkts; 90 overs) 267. Fall of wickets: 1-26, 2-60, 3-100. Bowling: Trent Boult 16-2-54-1, Matt Henry 20-3-65-0, Jeetan Patel 24-3-65-1, Mitchell Santner 19-3-53-1, James Neesham 11-1-27-0. � PTI