M Vijay went back into proper Test match mode, and he provided Kohli with the only real meaningful support of the day.
There were occasions when Faf du Plessis kept the mid-wicket open to tempt Kohli to play across for a leg-before verdict but he collected runs with flourish in that area.
Even as his teammates were struggling against South African seam bowlers on a relatively placid Centurion wicket on Day 2 of the ongoing second Test, Virat Kohli looked a class apart. By the time they found their rhythm, with Jasprit Bumrah looking especially unsafe, the light had dimmed.
Bumrah also praised de Villiers, who slammed an unbeaten half-century and put the hosts to swell their overall lead.
"It is tough to say (how the wicket will change) because it is not the same wicket we got in Cape Town".
Hardik Pandya had shown restraint, but gifted South Africa his wicket when he ambled through for a single but was run out by Vernon Philander, the all-rounder failing to ground his bat or a foot despite being beyond the crease.
But there was only one substantial partnership after India resumed on 183 for five.
He is yet to reach the three-figure mark, but bad light, overcast conditions and a quality spell in tandem from Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah on a wicket with variable bounce was enough to make de Villiers' innings worth its weight in gold. But after a few edgy strokes, Ashwin overcame the threat of bounce and played on the up. Kohli took his batting to a different notch and the impressive performance by the captain will breath fresh air into the team's dwindling moral after losing the first test. "We wanted the ball to be dry so what do we do next".
The last wicket of the morning came when Shami was caught at slips by Hashim Amla from the bowling of Morne Morkel. His 153 took just 217 balls, and contained 15 fours. The Proteas were restricted to a score of 335 in a not so live pitch at Centurion.
But when a guy who has spent his entire professional career at the venue for this Test claims that he can not recognise the wicket and that it is foreign to him, then it is easy to see why this strip has commanded so much attention. We were just having a word with the umpire that the ball was wet.
There are still some that like to pretend he's a flat-track bully, based on one poor tour of England in 2014.
With this century, the right-handed batsman became the second Indian captain after Sachin Tendulkar to score a Test hundred in South Africa.
After witnessing his partners struggle against the pace and seam the South African bowlers were able to extract from the Centurion track, Kohli chose to help number seven batsman Hardik Pandya tackle the hosts' bowling. It was clear that there was no movement off the pitch and the batsman was confident of the ball's trajectory. Knowing the competitor he is, it will mean nothing if India lose. Late on day three, with Bumrah building up a real head of pace, Dean Elgar fenced one behind.
Then disaster struck Cheteshwar Pujara and the Indian camp.