For a batsman who averaged a century almost every five Test innings until 2019, Virat Kohli has slipped into an extended century-less streak, and has now gone without a single triple-digit score in 11 innings.
For a batsman of Kohli’s stature, though, even the jinx of a century-less patch might not be exactly worrisome for his fans, for he hasn’t actually looked out of touch. No active international cricketer has more centuries than Kohli’s 70, 27 out of which have come in Tests, but his batting doesn’t necessarily have to only be appreciated when he passes the three-figure mark. Throughout his 90-Test career, Kohli has played several memorable innings of less than 100, some of which were just as pleasing to watch, or impactful, as some of his daddy hundreds. Here’s a look at five such knocks.
Numbers updated till March 1, 2021
75 v Australia, Perth (2012)
Many remember Virat Kohli’s 2012 Adelaide century as his coming of age in Test cricket, but earlier in the same month, Kohli, then 23, displayed exemplary courage against a raging Australian attack. With India 2-0 down in the series and staring at another innings defeat, an under-fire Kohli, fighting for his place in the side, stood tall even as his jaded fellow batters crumbled against an all-pace attack on a bouncy Perth wicket. The team lost, but a gem was uncovered.
In an innings where only two batsmen passed 20, Kohli’s 136-ball 75, then his highest Test score, diffused all doubts that he belonged to the Test level. Later, Virender Sehwag claimed that Kohli was close to being dropped at the expense of Rohit Sharma for the game. One wonders what could have happened to his career, and Indian cricket in general, if he had not made it to the XI.
96 v South Africa, Johannesburg (2013)
In India’s first Test after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, Kohli came close to becoming the first No.4 from the country to score a century in both innings of a Test. After top-scoring in the first innings with 119, Kohli combined with Cheteshwar Pujara for a 222-run stand in the second innings, against a quality attack featuring Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir and Jacques Kallis.
He fell four short but Kohli’s future role in a transforming Indian Test batting line-up couldn’t be overstated, and he ended up securing his place at No.4, one that he has held onto since.
88 v South Africa, Delhi (2015)
In a match where the Indian bowling attack strangulated the visitors on a slow, low Delhi surface, Kohli played a key role in India’s massive win, scoring a fine 88 to leave South Africa with a mountain to climb in the final innings. Leading by 213 runs, India were 8-2 and 57-4, before Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane dug in to take the game away on a tricky surface. The drives were on point and the wrists operated wonderfully.
Ironically, it was a straight ball that kept low that trapped Kohli, not before he had given a fine account of his batting versatility in all conditions. In the very next game, against West Indies, he scored his maiden double century, staking his claim as an all-format star.
97 v England, Nottingham (2018)
His team might have faltered, but 2018 was a redemption of sorts for Virat Kohli. Struggling to put bat on ball four years ago, Kohli arrived in England with a reputation to enhance and instantly struck gold with a century in Birmingham. However, the series was slipping by the time he reached Nottingham, and the wicket was producing tremendous swing on the first day.
Kohli, though, looked like he was batting on a different surface altogether, unafraid to put out a big stride against both spin and pace. Fluent till then, he tried to drill Adil Rashid through covers on 97, but ended up offering an edge to slip, and falling three short of a well-deserved ton. In the very next innings, though, he reached the three-figure mark, showing the kind of form he was in, and by the end of the game, was on top of the ICC Test batting rankings.
72 v England, Chennai (2021)
Returning to the India team after more than a month’s gap, and playing his first Test in India after 15 months, Kohli compiled a valiant 72 in India’s massive loss. The score extended his century-less streak but he looked completely in his element on the tricky Chennai surface, and as good as he has while scoring any of his six double tons at home. Showing sublime wristwork against spinners, he scored close to 40 per cent of all India runs in the second innings, but even the special knock couldn’t stave off a huge defeat. Days later, he played an equally good knock on the same venue, this time helping India level the series.