In some nook corner of the world, far away from the civilization, Sisyphus is still rolling the boulder up the vertiginous climb, only for it to slip down again. In a more familiar world, we have Virat Kohli, whose quest for the 71st Test century has now touched the same absurdist terrain. It's natural to identify with the perpetual boredom and agony of both Sisyphus and Kohli ever since he scored his 70th century.
He could have reached his 28th Test hundred in his innings of 2022. There was a chance, but as the threat of being left stranded loomed large, his extravagant shuffle took him close to the ball delivered the proverbial mile outside off stump. Until the dismissal, Kohli was immaculate in his judgement and has weathered a scorching spell from Kagiso Rabada.
Kohli's quest for the elusive 28th Test hundred continues, but you must imagine him happy. Even in the middle of a lean patch, he has come up with quite a few innings that will not be forgotten soon, and his 79 will stand out even among them.
On a murky Cape Town morning, Kohli batted with utmost caution and austerity, driving only when the ball was right beneath his watchful eyes, and enjoyed the fruits of his labour as the game progressed. It was one his most obdurate knocks as he showed a great deal of restraint against the South African pace attack. He left over half the balls en route his half-century, the second-slowest of his Test career.
With Cheteshwar Pujara at one end, it is usually Kohli who moves the game as the former wears the attack down. Here, as Pujara drove and pulled and took charge, Kohli almost shedded his characteristic weapon, almost as penance for getting out while playing away from the body on the last couple of occasions.
He needed a munificent gift from Marco Jansen outside off stump to end his 15-ball scoreless agony with a cover drive for four. The next 15 balls fetched a solitary run before a rare straight, over-pitched delivery from Rabada was driven down the ground for a brace. Rabada changed his angle next ball, setting off a riveting duel, a battle within a battle, the kind you see in few sports outside cricket.
Just after beating Kohli with an leg-cutter, Rabada unfurled a vicious short ball around off stump. The line made it impossible for Kohli to duck, so he flashed his bat without conviction. The ball still soared over fine leg. For the next four balls and the rest of his third spell, Rabada relentlessly attacked the fourth stump, often moving the ball as viciously as a leg-break.
In the last over of his spell, he beat Kohli thrice and induced an edge that fell just short of second slip. There was a sigh of relief on Kohli's face when he got a single off the fourth delivery. The grin was a silent acknowledgement of a ripping spell. It was a spell unlike anything Rabada has bowled so far in the series, but Kohli walked away unscathed.
When Rabada finally got Kohli, it was more an outcome of what transpired at the other end, not Kohli's lapse in concentration. With India losing a flurry of wickets, Kohli needed to shift through the gears, and he did this to a great effect before edging behind the stump.