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Kohli ton leads India to eight-wicket rout of South Africa

Captain fantastic: India skipper Virat Kohli celebrates his unbeaten century on Friday © AFP / MARCO LONGARI

CENTURION, South Africa, Feb 16Virat Kohli said he would never take his cricket talent for granted after he finished India’s one-day international series against South Africa as he started it -– with a match-winning century.

Kohli was in dazzling form as he hit 129 not out off 96 balls to take India to an eight-wicket win with 17.5 overs to spare in the sixth one-day international.

It completed a crushing 5-1 series victory for India, who started the series second behind South Africa in the one-day rankings but finished as the undisputed number one side.

The series was a personal triumph for Kohli, who hit three centuries and became the first player to score more than 500 runs in a bilateral series. He finished with 558 runs at an average of 186.00.

“You want to lead from the front with your performances,” said Kohli. “When they come off so well, along with the effort of the whole team, it’s very pleasing.”

Asked how he maintained the intensity which he had shown throughout the series, Kohli said: “I’ve got eight or nine years left in my career. It’s not a long career for a cricketer so I want to make the most of it. I want to train as hard as I can and make the most of every day.”

He said there was no greater honour than playing for and captaining his country.

“If I take it for granted it’s not doing justice to what I have been given by God.”

He paid credit to “people off the field” who had contributed to his and India’s outstanding performances, including his wife, Bollywood star Anushka Sharma.

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“She keeps me motivated,” he said. “She has been criticised in the past but she is one person who keeps me going.”

The platform for Kohli was set by India’s bowlers, who bowled out the hosts for a mediocre 204. Fast bowler Shardul Thakur took advantage of his only start of the series to take four for 52.

After Rohit Sharma was dismissed in the fourth over, Kohli took command.

South Africa’s batsmen had struggled to bat fluently on a slow pitch but Kohli struck the ball with power and precision to reach his fifty off 36 balls and his 35th one-day international century off 82 deliveries with 17 fours.

There were two more fours and two sixes as Kohli finished the match with a flurry of strokes.

Despite India holding a series-winning 4-1 lead, Thakur was the only change to a winning combination, replacing Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Khaya Zondo, like Thakur playing in his third international match, top-scored for South Africa with 54 off 74 balls.

It was only the fourth score of 50 or more for the hosts in a series in which their top batsmen have failed to fire.

Wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal took their wicket tallies for the series to 17 and 16 respectively, although Yadav took only one wicket and Chahal claimed two.

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Chahal claimed the key wicket of AB de Villiers, bowling South Africa’s star batsman with a flipper when he shaped to cut.

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