Johannesburg: Virat Kohli endorsed his succession to Sachin Tendulkar's place in India's batting order with a cultured century on the first day of the first Test against South Africa at the Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday.
Promoted to the number four position, filled for the better part of two decades by Tendulkar before his recent retirement, Kohli hit a career-best 119 as India reached 255 for 5 at the close of play.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity to come up the batting order," said Kohli.
"I like to be in the action early on while conditions are tough and then dictate. They (Tendulkar's) are big shoes to step in to but I had a plan in mind."Kohli said it had been the best innings of his Test career.
"It was all about respecting the bowlers and the conditions and then respecting yourself when you get in."
He said he thought India had done well, given the inexperience of their batsmen and the quality of the opposition.
"We have learnt our lessons on this tour and you didn't see any of our batsmen playing loose shots outside the off stump.
"Hopefully we can build on it tomorrow and then bowl well to put them under pressure."Coming in with his side in trouble at 24 for two, Kohli stroked 18 boundaries in a 181-ball innings.
His innings went a long way towards justifying captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's decision to bat first but he could not hide his disappointment when he was dismissed shortly before the second new ball was due, driving Jacques Kallis uppishly to cover.
Kohli, though, played a wide variety of attacking strokes, reaching his fifty off 76 balls with nine fours and his fifth Test century off 140 deliveries.
With a previous highest score of 116, against Australia in Adelaide two seasons ago, Kohli appeared to be determined to make his latest hundred a big one and played with more circumspection after reaching three figures.
South Africa could not take advantage of his dismissal, however, as Ajinkya Rahane, playing in his second Test, and Dhoni saw out the rest of the day.
Kohli shared two important partnerships as South Africa's vaunted pace attack was blunted on a well-grassed pitch which offered plenty of bounce but minimal sideways movement.
He and Cheteshwar Pujara put on 89 for the third wicket before Pujara was run out for a patient 25 made off 98 balls. Then Kohli and Rahane added 68 for the fifth wicket.
Rahane batted solidly, especially against the second new ball, and was unbeaten on 43.
South African bowling coach Allan Donald said the home team's bowlers had done reasonably well.
"We asked the right questions to begin with but we were probably a bit wide and a bit short for most of the day. At the same time the game never ran away from us. We stuck to our guns but we know we have to come out tomorrow and make a big play."