Chennai - Virat Kohli slammed a brilliant 138 before the Indian bowlers produced an impressive performance as the hosts comfortably beat South Africa by 35 runs to level the series 2-2, here on Thursday.

Courtesy Kohli's century, India piled up a commendable 299 for eight in 50 overs and then restricted South Africa to 264 for 9 despite a classy hundred by their captain AB de Villiers. In the end, Kohli's 23rd ODI hundred proved to be a shade better effort than De Villiers' 22nd ton in the final context of the match. If Kohli's innings was about asserting his supremacy in the limited overs format, De Villiers was innovation personified hitting all round the wicket.Credit should be given to India's spin troika of Harbhajan Singh (2/50), Axar Patel (1/40) and Amit Mishra (1/55) for using the conditions well along with pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/68), who got the prize scalp of opposition captain. The series will now be decided at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium in the final ODI scheduled to be played on October 25.

De Villiers battled cramps to race to century but his superb 107-ball-112 could not get the Proteas home. The South African skipper hit 10 fours and two sixes fighting valiantly before a slow bouncer from Bhuvneshwar saw him try a flat batted shot which ended up as a thickish edge into Mahendra Singh Dhoni's hands. It was De Villiers' dismissal in the 45th over that decisively tilted scales in India's favour. When the chase started, Hashim Amla's (7) woeful run in the series continued as he pulled one straight to Shikhar Dhawan at mid-wicket. Gauging that the pitch was dry and turn was on offer, Harbhajan was brought in the attack as early as the 9th over. The 'Turbantor' looked dangerous in each of his six overs in the first spell while he got a bit of stick towards the end to finish with 2/50 in 10 overs. He got the wicket of last match centurion Quinton de Kock (35) just when he was taking on the attack.

It was a classical off-spinner's delivery where he enticed De Kock for a drive with a flighted delivery that spun away from the left-hander taking the outside edge which was held by Ajinkya Rahane at second slip. Faf du Plessis (17) was a bit ruffled as a powerful hit from De Villiers hit his elbow. He was soon dismissed when he was adjudged caught behind off Axar bowling. While Du Plessis looked unhappy, the snickometer showed some noise when the ball passed the bat. From 79 for 3, it soon became 88 for four when Harbhajan bowled one that straightened sufficiently after pitching to hit David Miller (6) plumb in-front.

However De Villiers countered the turn with footwork as he got a partner in Farhaan Behardien (22) as they steadily built a partnership of 56 runs for the fifth wicket. It was leg-spinner Mishra, who accounted for Behardien in the 32nd over which turned out to be a wicket-maiden. Behardien should have been out off the 2nd ball when he nicked one to Dhoni but a vociferous appeal was turned down by umpire S Ravi. However off the fifth ball of that over, Mishra bowled a flipper which Behardien missed trying to sweep off middle-stump. This time Ravi raised his finger as South Africa were reduced to 144 for five.

De Villiers continued in attacking fashion as he reached his 50 with a shot over extra cover. He got a dogged partner in Chris Morris (9), who didn't score many but hung around to add 41 runs before a miscommunication led to a run-out with Ajinkya Rahane effecting a direct throw at non-striker's end. The South African captain continued despite cramps as he reached 97 with a huge six off Harbhajan over deep mid-wicket and then another straight six off Mishra to complete his second hundred of the series.

Scoreboard

INDIA:

R Sharma c du Plessis b Morris 21

S Dhawan c de Kock b Rabada 7

V Kohli c de Kock b Rabada 138

A Rahane c de Kock b Steyn 45

S Raina c de Villiers b Steyn 53

M Dhoni c de Villiers b Steyn 15

H Singh b Rabada 0

A Patel not out 4

B Kumar run out 0

EXTRAS: (lb3, w12, nb1) 16

TOTAL: (for eight wickets, 50 overs) 299

FOW: 1-28, 2-35, 3-139, 4-266, 5-291, 6-291, 7-299, 8-299.

BOWLING: Steyn 10-0-61-3, Rabada 10-0-54-3, Morris 9-0-55-1, Phangiso 9-0-51-0, Tahir 9-0-58-0, Behardien 3-0-17-0.

SOUTH AFRICA:

Q de Kock c Rahane b Harbhajan 43

H Amla c Dhawan b M. Sharma 7

F du Plessis c Dhoni b Patel 17

AB de Villiers c Dhoni b Kumar 112

D Miller lbw b Harbhajan 6

F Behardien lbw b Mishra 22

C Morris run out 9

A Phangiso c Patel b Kumar 20

D Steyn c Rahane b Kumar 6

K Rabada not out 8

I Tahir not out 4

EXTRAS: (lb3, w5, nb2) 10

TOTAL: (for 9 wickets, 50 overs) 264

FOW: 1-36, 2-67, 3-79, 4-88, 5-144, 6-185, 7-233, 8-250, 9-250.

Bowling: Kumar 10-0-68-3, M Sharma 10-0-48-1, Harbhajan 10-0-50-2, Patel 10-0-40-1, Mishra 10-1-55-1.

TOSS: India

UMPIRES: Sundaram Ravi (IND) and Chettithody Shamshuddin (IND)

TV UMPIRE: Anil Chaudhary (IND)

MATCH REFEREE: Chris Broad (ENG)