Virat Kohli re-iterated on Sunday why he is considered one of the best chasers in cricket, slamming an unbeaten 82 off just 52 balls to power India to an incredible four-wicket victory over archrivals Pakistan in a thrilling Super 12 match of Men’s T20 World Cup in front of 90,293 fans at a sell-out Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
After the right-left fast-bowling duo of Hardik Pandya and Arshdeep Singh picked three wickets each to restrict Pakistan to 159/8 in their 20 overs, Kohli and Hardik Pandya (40) shared a match-winning stand of 113 off 77 deliveries, lifting India from 31/4 to 160/6 on the last ball of the match to get their campaign off to a winning start.
In their chase, India were struck a huge blow when K.L Rahul chopped onto his stumps while trying to defend against Naseem Shah in the second over. Two overs later, Haris Rauf had Rohit Sharma poking tentatively at a 145kph length ball and the thick edge flew to the first slip, who dived low to pouch a blinder of a catch.
Suryakumar Yadav sweetly punched a drive off Rauf and then pulled off the front foot over mid-wicket to collect a brace of fours. But the right-arm pacer had the last laugh as his back-of-the-length ball on stumps cramped Suryakumar for room, who looked to cut the ball away.
All he could do was to nick behind to the keeper, leaving India at 26/3 in 5.3 overs. Things went from bad to worse for India as a mix-up in the middle for a non-existent single resulted in run-out of Axar Patel.
Kohli and Pandya took some time before opening up against Pakistan’s spin twins, leg-spinner Shadab Khan and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz. Pandya began by drilling a drive straight down the ground off Shadab before he smacked sixes over long-on and deep mid-wicket off Nawaz, sandwiched between Kohli launching a glorious six over long-on to make it 20 runs off the 12th over.
Apart from collecting plenty of twos with Pandya, Kohli brought out his deft touch with a fine glance off Shaheen, playing the cut off his wrists past deep cover off Shadab and flicked past a diving short fine-leg off Naseem to collect three quick fours.
On the back of India scoring 55 runs in 11-15 overs, Pakistan brought back Rauf and Shah and the duo gave away just six runs each in the 16th and 17th overs respectively. With 48 needed off the last three overs, Kohli brought up his fifty by fetching a short ball from outside the off-stump to pull Afridi through mid-wicket for four and ended the over with another four, swivel-pulled over short fine leg.
Kohli then smacked back-to-back sixes off Rauf — a straight loft down the ground was followed by using the pace of the ball to flick off wrists over fine leg — to make it 16 runs needed off the final over.
Nawaz dealt a huge blow on the first ball of the final over when he had Pandya miscuing the slog and the thick edge went to cover-point. On the fourth ball, Kohli smacked a waist-high full toss high over deep square leg fence which was called a no-ball.
After Nawaz conceded a wide, Kohli and Dinesh Karthik ran three byes on the free-hit delivery before the latter was stumped on the fifth ball. Nawaz conceded a wide yet again and Ashwin finished off the chase with a loft over mid-off to win a thriller for India.
Brief scores: Pakistan 159/8 in 20 overs (Shan Masood 52 not out, Iftikhar Ahmed 51; Hardik Pandya 3/30, Arshdeep Singh 3/32) lost to India 160/6 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 82 not out, Hardik Pandya 40; Haris Rauf 2/36, Mohammad Nawaz 2/42) by four wickets
Not just Virat’s but India’s best-ever T20 knock: Rohit
India captain Rohit Sharma didn’t bat an eyelid before declaring Virat Kohli’s 82 here on Sunday as not only his best but the most accomplished knock played in the country’s T20 history. Kohli has had his issues with form, but his skipper didn’t count himself among the Doubting Thomases, who had termed him well past his sell-by-date.
“Yeah, I think it has to go — definitely his best for sure, but I think from the situation we were in, and to come out with a victory, I think it has to be one of India’s best knocks, not just his best knock,” Rohit told mediapersons after India’s T20 World Cup win against Pakistan.
He explained why he rated this innings as India’s No. 1 T20 knock. “Because until the 13th over (needing close to 100 runs), we were so behind in the game, and the required rate was just climbing up and up. But to come out and chase that score was an extremely brilliant effort from Virat, and then obviously Hardik (Pandya) played a role there, as well,” the skipper didn’t forget to praise his all-rounder.
Both Kohli and Pandya are veterans of many close T20 contests, which they had pulled off under pressure at the international as well as IPL level.
Sri Lanka beat Ireland by 9-wicket
Spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana took two wickets each while opener Kusal Mendis smashed an unbeaten 68, his second consecutive fifty on the trot, as Sri Lanka secured a clinical nine-wicket win over Ireland in their Super 12 match of the Men’s T20 World Cup at the Bellerive Oval on Sunday.
After Hasaranga and Theekshana took two wickets each in a brilliant bowling performance as Sri Lanka restricted Ireland to a paltry 128/8 in 20 overs, Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva (31) shared a 63-run opening stand, before the right-hander and Charith Asalanka (31 not out) finished off the chase with nine wickets in hand and 30 balls remaining.
In a modest chase, Mendis and de Silva smashed five boundaries to bring up the fifty of the opening stand in the power-play as Ireland’s bowling attack had an off day. The Irish had the breakthrough in the ninth over when Gareth Delany forced de Silva to cut a short and wide delivery, giving a top-edge straight to Lorcan Tucker.
Mendis then brought up his fifty with back-to-back fours off Delany and then gave the same treatment to Joshua Little. Fittingly, Mendis finished off the match with a brace of sixes off Simi Singh to lead Sri Lanka’s commanding chase.
Earlier, Sri Lanka, the 2014 T20 World Cup champions, were disciplined and economical in their bowling effort, especially their spin twins, Theekshana and Hasaranga. They began by using a lot of fast bowlers in the first half of Ireland’s innings, before unleashing the leg-spin plus off-spin duo of Hasaranga and Theekshana to stem their run-flow in the later half.
Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie fell cheaply, as pacer Lahiru Kumara disturbed his stumps while trying to go for an audacious ramp.
Paul Stirling held one end and was smashing boundaries off Chamika Karunaratne as well as de Silva. But his dismissal at the halfway stage, as Bhanuka Rajapaksa took a low catch at wide mid-off, letting Sri Lanka take full control of the innings of de Silva.
Brief scores: Ireland 128/8 in 20 overs (Harry Tector 45, Paul Stirling 34; Maheesh Theekshana 2/19, Wanindu Hasaranga 2/25) lost to Sri Lanka 133/1 in 15 overs (Kusal Mendis 68 not out, Charith Asalanka 31 not out; Gareth Delany 1/28) by nine wickets.
With Curtis Campher and Dockrell falling cheaply, Harry Tector anchored one end by taking the attack to Karunaratne, Hasaranga and Theekshana. Just as he looked to go big, a mis-hit on a juicy full-toss off pacer Binura Fernando ended his stay at 45. Hasaranga took out Delany and Mark Adair in quick succession in the 19th over as Sri Lanka picked four wickets while conceding just 28 runs in the last five overs.