'It was all about showing patience and just watching the ball'
With their backs to the wall and faced with a near impossible task, India came back from the dead with a resolute batting effort to give themselves slim hope of a series-levelling victory in the fourth and final Test against England in Nagpur, on Saturday.
Resuming at their overnight score of 87 for four in reply to England's first innings of 330, India staged a miraculous recovery to end the day on 297 for eight.
India's revival was anchored by a marathon partnership between Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh who put on 198 runs in 507 balls for the fifth wicket as the duo spent 341 minutes together at the crease.
Kohli ended his barren run in the series with a matured knock of 103 as he held forte for nearly six hours at the crease, hitting 11 boundaries in his 295-ball knock. Dhoni also brought all his experience on a difficult wicket to silence his critics with a patient innings of 99, before he was run out in the penultimate over of the day after an innings that stretched for 396 minutes out in the middle.
"It was challenging for both of us. It was a slowish wicket, not easy to get the ball away. I had to show some patience and I just thought of applying myself and not think of anything else -- just play six balls at a time, one over at a time. That is what we decided out in the middle," Kohli said.
"It was all about showing patience and just watching the ball and reacting to it rather than thinking about what we are going to be at the end of the day or the end of the session. It was about playing over by over and seeing how it goes and we were able to get a big partnership," Kohli said after the third day's play.With the slow pitch making scoring difficult, he said that India's game plan was very simple and that was to try and bat for as long as possible.
Image: Virat Kohli of India celebrates after scoring a century against England on Saturday
'Batting in second innings won't be easy'
"We were not thinking about anything, we were just playing over by over and trying to stretch the game as much as possible, both of us. We were not thinking about how runs we need to get after the first session or how many we need to get at the end of the day, it was just about playing six balls at a time and concentrate for long hours," he said.
The right-hander, who hit some exquisitely timed boundaries through the off-side, believes the pitch could deteriorate in the next two days bringing into play the four Indian spinners.
"This is a kind of wicket where you need to show patience. The wicket hasn't changed much but I think the cracks are opening up slowly so you might see a completely different wicket tomorrow. The spinners might come into play bit more. This is kind of wicket where you need to apply yourself the whole time, you just can't relax at any point of time," he said.
Kohli said it will be vital for India to get a lead tomorrow morning and then pile on the pressure on the English batsmen on a slow wicket."I don't think in the second innings batting on this wicket would be easy. If we get whatever lead that we get, if we few runs lead tomorrow and just let them play five sessions, we'll see how the match goes. You never know, you get two-three wickets, like we lost three-four wickets in the end, so you never know. Cricket is a funny game, you get some runs lead and you put the opposition under pressure; it won't be easy to defend all day. We will just be looking for the one opening and probably get two-three wickets and you never know where the game goes from there," he said.
Image: MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli
'I was waiting for this one innings'
The 24-year-old came into the Test match with some concerns over his batting, having managed just 85 runs in six innings. However, he showed great application and dedication to turnaround things in style to bail out his team in a crisis situation and keep their hopes alive in Nagpur.
"There was nothing that I was feeling. Mentally, I was feeling really good, I was hitting the ball well. Three times I got 20, I probably got a good ball in Ahmedabad in the first innings and I made a few mistakes after that. That's what happens in cricket. I was waiting for this one innings, I was not doubting myself at all, not thinking about what people were saying about my fifties. I am always someone who believes a lot in my abilities and in myself," he said.
"I was waiting for this one innings, I was working hard for the last one month and eventually if you keep working hard these little things happen in cricket. You can't keep performing in every series or every match, these ups and downs happen but you need to stay positive and have the same mindset when you do well and when you don't do well and that is the one thing that I did and today was the day I was waiting for."
Kohli has emerged as the crisis man for India in the limited overs format having played a few match-winning knocks in important matches. But he revealed that his first preference is always Test cricket and he wants to succeed in the longer format.
"I actually love these kind of situations because as much as I learn from these situations I will become a better player in the future. This century is very pleasing for me because of the way I played in this innings. I didn't think about the runs, I didn't think about the number of balls I was playing, I was just batting. You just keep batting, you just keep watching the ball and eventually you get the right results. I was pretty pleased for bat for long hours in this game and that is something you will need to do in future in Test matches. It was a learning innings for me and I was glad I was able to score a century," he said.
Kohli said that the entire Indian team was disappointed when Dhoni was run out for 99 after attempting a quick single.
"It was disappointing because he had worked hard the whole day. It was something which is very good thing for an attacking player to calm himself down so much and actually fight it out the whole day and play close to 260 balls. He got run out on 99 and it was disappointing for all of us to see. He deserved a hundred and it was sad to see him get run out on 99," he said.
Image: MS Dhoni captain of India congratulates teammate Virat Kohli of India as the latter scores a century