Melbourne, October 23
Virat Kohli dominated the big stage in one fell swoop for the ages as he propelled India to an epic four-wicket over Pakistan in a stunning T20 World Championship match that unfolded at the MCG Amphitheater, which was packed with 90,000 boisterous fans. here on Sunday.
King Kohli, as his fans call him, conjured up a magical and memorable 82-run undefeated knock to anchor a 160 chase that became difficult after India lay in shambles at 31 for 4.
Hardik Pandya, the key cog in India’s T20 wheel, hit 40 of 37 balls in a partnership of 113.
Kohli’s ability to win games for India came under scrutiny due to an ongoing bout of weakness, and the long-lost bowling attack winner sang the perfect redemption song on the biggest stage.
It started in the 19th over when he sent one of Haris Rauf onto his hump and hit back-to-back sixes.
Cricket is indeed a leveler like Rauf, after 22 great deliveries bowled two bad ones and it changed the complexion of the game.
With 16 balls needed for the last six balls, Pandya holed in front of Mohammed Nawaz’ bowling and since the crossover rule didn’t exist, Dinesh Karthik faced his first delivery and took a single.
With 14 three balls needed, Nawaz’s juicy full toss was sent for a six-over-square leg and called a no-ball after deliberation by the umpires on the field.
Nawaz, the hero of Pakistan’s Super 4 victory at the Asian Cup, had lost his nerve by this point.
After Karthik was caught off guard by an attentive Mohammed Rizwan, Nawaz bowled wide and Ravichandran Ashwin scored the most important limit of his career.
“Chak De India,” reverberating around the MCG, never sounded sweeter, and Kohli seemed deaf. He hit the ground, took a long walk back, gave the crowd a thumbs-up after restoring India’s supremacy at a global event.
But the script could have gone wrong.
KL Rahul’s fight against extreme pace and his distinct lack of footwork, Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav coming off cheap upset the rhythm set by Pandya and Arshdeep as they restricted Pakistan to 159 for 8.
In no time, India was 31-4 and Kohli and Pandya had to consolidate for the next four overs without losing the wicket.
Pandya and Kohli, both students of the incomparable Mahendra Singh Dhoni, understand the grammar of chasing in T20 cricket and how to speed up the innings.
It wasn’t until leg spinner Shadab Khan came on that Pandya risked his arm and sent him to the stands.
In Nawaz’ Next Over, Kohli gave him the same treatment while Pandya got his second six.
India needed 60 from the last five overs, but Rauf and Naseem only gave up six runs each in the 16th and 17th overs.
Before that, Arshdeep threw a dreamy first spell and Pandya showed his true value in the back-10 as India restricted Pakistan to a manageable 159 for eight.
While Arshdeep (3/32) eliminated skippers Babar Azam (0) and Rizwan (4) in his first two overs to set the tone, Pandya (3/30) relived memories of his Asia Cup exploits by delivering consistent hit hard lengths at a brisk pace, the pitch does the rest.
Iftikhar Ahmed (51) was the only batsman who seemed to roll back the attack to India as spinners Ashwin and Axar Patel (1/21) struggled a little and it was designated sixth bowler Pandya who filled his full quota.
Shan Masood (52) hit half a century but never looked comfortable during his 42-ball slam.
Exactly 364 days ago, Babar and Rizwan had clinically decimated the Indian bowling attack for their biggest-ever T20I win over India.
But with the MCG track staying under cover for a few days due to rain and subsequent underlying moisture, apart from a generous tinge of green in and around the good length area, it meant the successful opening pair should not be merry.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/22) and Arshdeep knew all they had to do was serve the ball and let the lane do the rest.
Both bowling at an average speed of 80 mph, they knew their best chance of annoying the batsmen at that pace was to bowl full lengths.
A good first push from Bhuvneshwar, where he consistently scored late moves, set the tone for Arshdeep to take the baton and deal a significant amount of damage.
It was the first delivery Babar faced and Arshdeep got a perfect inswinger that shot back far enough to force the Pakistan captain over the line. There was no doubt about the stage before the decision.
Rizwan (4), who mostly played and missed, was sent off when Arshdeep very skillfully slipped in a well-camouflaged short ball and Bhuvneshwar made the easiest catch on the fine-leg boundary.
Rohit’s captain was spot on as he didn’t get Shami to the last over of the power play and brought in a spinner (Ashwin) for the first time in the ninth over.
Early in the back-10, Iftikhar hit four sixes five balls apart and Shami (1/25), coming back for his second ban, pinned him with a fuller vertical forward delivery to end the 76th run in third -wicket stand.
Even after Iftikhar got out, Masood couldn’t push the pace. Pandya fired Shadab Khan, Haider Ali and Mohammed Nawaz in quick succession. Shaheen Shah Afridi’s powerful strokes propelled Pakistan past the 150 run mark but failed to save the day with ball.
Pakistan: 159/8 in 20 overs (Iftikhar Ahmed 51, Shan Masood 52 not out; Arshdeep Singh 3/32, Hardik Pandya 3/30).
India: 160 for six in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 82 not out, Hardik Pandya 40; Haris Rauf 2/36).
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