The 34-year-old had last scored a red-ball ton (136) in the pink-ball Test against Bangladesh in 2019 at the Eden Gardens.
India, riding on the back of six 50-plus partnerships, finished their first innings at 571 for 9 at the Narendra Modi Stadium after Shreyas Iyer did not bat due to a recurrence of a lower back injury.
The visitors, having conceded a 91-run lead, were 3 for no loss at close of play on Day 4 – with Travis Head (3) and nightwatchman Matthew Kuhnemann (0), who opened the batting in place of an injured Usman Khawaja, at the crease. They trail by 88 runs on a wicket which still looks worth a thousand runs.
Kuhnemann had a lucky escape when wicketkeeper KS Bharat failed to grab a snick in the penultimate over of the day bowled by R Ashwin.
The other notable feature of the day was 79 runs scored by allrounder Axar Patel. The left-hander added 162 runs for the sixth wicket with Kohli. He hit four massive sixes and five boundaries in his innings that has further enhanced his reputation as a quality batter.
Watching Kohli was akin to seeing a healthy ascetic depriving himself of much-needed sustenance. Australia’s stand-in skipper Steve Smith did all he could to choke the runs. His spinners – led by the indefatigable Nathan Lyon – kept bowling around the imaginary fifth stump line to invite false strokes.
Lyon (3-151) and his rookie partner Todd Murphy (3-113) together bowled 110 overs between them. The veteran offie alone accounted for 65 overs, the most he has ever bowled in an innings.
Kohli, however, rarely played against the turn — in his 516-minute stay at the wicket. His hundred, which was his second slowest ever came off 241 deliveries and had only five hits to the fence. The self-imposed discipline lasted till he got over the three-figure mark in the 138th over of the innings.
His first boundary of the day — a straight drive off Mitchell Starc — came after he had faced 162 deliveries. As he coasted towards a huge personal score, two consecutive boundaries off Cameron Green took him to 150.
Kohli was eventually dismissed by Murphy for 186 after he holed out in the deep while attempting to stretch the lead. The former India captain batted for 364 deliveries and hit 15 fours in his innings.
Murphy, incidentally, has dismissed Kohli four times in this series.
Earlier, India resumed at 289 for 3, but lost Ravindra Jadeja before lunch. Runs were hard to come by as the Australian bowlers stuck to the plan of packing one side of the field with seven fielders. Only 73 runs were added in the 32 overs.
Jadeja took 84 balls to score 28 and eventually ran out of patience. He was dismissed by Murphy while attempting to clear Khawaja at mid-on.
As the Sunday crowd expected Iyer to come out next, they were in for a surprise as KS Bharat walked in instead. The BCCI informed through a statement that Iyer’s back injury had flared up. It is the same injury which had kept him out of the three ODIs against New Zealand and the first Test versus Australia at Nagpur.
“Shreyas Iyer complained of pain in his lower back following the third day’s play. He has gone for scans and the BCCI Medical Team is monitoring him,” read the BCCI update.
Bharat’s bat made the right noises as he clattered Lyon for a six over mid-wicket and then hooked Green for a couple of sixes in the 134th over of the innings. As he looked primed to reach his maiden Test fifty, the wicketkeeper-batter fell bat-pad to Lyon for 44.