CAPE TOWN - Virat Kohli revealed that he was forced to battle cramp during his innings in Cape Town as he led his side to a 3-0 series lead with a magnificent 160 not out at Newlands on Wednesday.
With the sun beating down, the Indian captain felt himself seizing up when he was in the 90s, but battled on to take his side to 303/6.
The score was the 29-year-old's 34th ODI century and his second-highest altogether, behind only his 183 made against Pakistan in Dhaka in 2012. His performance was all the more remarkable considering his physical struggle.
"I was cramping towards the end but knew I had to stay till the end to get us to 300," Kohli said. "These are the times you're tested mentally as well as physically."
Kohli shared a 140-run partnership with Shikhar Dhawan (76) after Rohit Sharma fell early on, with the opener taking the aggressive role before being caught by Aiden Markram off JP Duminy's off-spin.
The captain continued unperturbed as wickets fell at the other end. Ajinkya Rahane (11) and Hardik Pandya (14) each threw their wickets away, while MS Dhoni (10 from 22 balls) struggled.
Kohli eventually found a willing partner in Bhuvneshwar Kumar (16 from 19) and the two put on 67 runs together to push India's score beyond 300.
"The wicket started off with good pace and bounce," Kohli said. "The new ball was hitting the bat nicely with pace. But it was a drastic change after the 30th over and we immediately chopped down our target from 330 to 280-290.
"You're always looking for someone to bat until the end and it's amazing if you do that as the captain. I shared another good partnership with Shikhar and had a good stand with Bhuvi at the end as well."
India's total proved out of reach for South Africa, who once again struggled against the wrist-spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal (4/46) and Kuldeep Yadav (4/23). After Hashim Amla fell lbw to Jasprit Bumrah (2/32), Aiden Markram (32) and JP Duminy (51) batted well for a time.
But once both had been dismissed the game turned into a familiar nightmare for the hosts. Chahal and Yadav ran through the lower and middle order to bowl South Africa for 179 in 40 overs - just 19 runs more than Kohli scored by himself.
"The tour didn't start off too well but I knew I had to come in and get stuck in for us to compete in every game - it feels very good that it's coming off in winning causes," Kohli added.
"The intensity will be more in the fourth game because we can't lose this series anymore. I'm sure they'll come all guns blazing so we want to close that door."
South Africa will look to bounce back from yet another chastening defeat in the fourth ODI, which takes place on Saturday in Johannesburg.
Indian captain Virat Kohli says he was forced to battle through cramp as he made his second-highest ODI score of 160* against South Africa in Newlands.
African News Agency