Cricket: Kohli hits out at Aussies on and off the field

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Virat Kohli says he enjoys the on-field banter with Australia but he let his bat do the talking on Sunday with a Test-best 169 to help India fight back in the third Test.

The 26-year-old claimed his third century of the series and his fifth against Australia as he joined Ajinkya Rahane (147) in a 262-run fourth-wicket stand. They reduced the home side's lead to 68 with two wickets left and two days to play in Melbourne.

The spiky Kohli relishes his verbal clashes with the far-from-reticent Australians.

He proved a constant irritant to the Australian bowlers in his stay of more than six hours at the crease, confirming his stature as India's pre-eminent batsman after the departure of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.

Kohli was just as forthright at his post-day press conference as he fired some verbal bouncers at the Australians.

"I like playing against Australia because it's very hard for them to stay calm," he said.

"I don't mind. I will give it on the field. It really excites me and brings the best out in me.

"They don't seem to be learning the lesson."

Kohli, who scored twin centuries in the first Adelaide Test and has amassed 445 runs at 89 in the series to date, had a running battle with Australia's main strike bowler Mitchell Johnson.

At one stage he even blew kisses at Johnson when he hit him back over his head for four.

"It was going on throughout the day," Kohli said.

"They were calling me a spoilt brat and I said 'Maybe that's the way I am - I know you guys hate me and I like that'.

"So I don't mind having a chat on the field and it worked in my favour, I guess."

At one time Johnson hurled the ball at Kohli, hitting him on the back.

Johnson quickly apologised but the mood soured, with the umpires intervening to ease tensions between the pair.

"I was really annoyed with him hitting me with the ball and I told him 'That's not on: try to hit the stumps next time, not my body'," he said.

Kohli said he was backing himself against Johnson, Ryan Harris and Australia's other bowlers in the four-Test series.

"His (Johnson's) job is bowl and get wickets and he was going at 4.7 runs an over today," he said.

"He didn't get a wicket throughout the day (until the last over) and I knew - I back myself that I can take him on, even if I keep talking to him.

"That's important, you can't back off after saying a few words and then not show it with your skill.

"So I decided when he comes onto bowl, I'm going to back myself and take him on as well. I don't mind giving a word back and neither does he. So it kept going on."

It was a bruising day for Johnson, who finished with one for 133. The last time he had been punished as severely was 0-104 against England at the Gabba in 2010.