Kohli scripts incredible win over Pakistan at MCG
A Virat Kohli-inspired India beat rivals Pakistan in an extraordinary finish to a Men’s T20 World Cup classic at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
In a finale fitting the occasion, India took 16 from a barely believable last over to successfully chase 160 with four wickets remaining in front of a raucous crowd of 90,293 – Kohli ending 82 not out.
They were struggling at various stages, none more so than when needing 13 from the final three balls before Pakistan wilted.
Kohli, a master of nights such as these, clubbed a full toss from spinner Mohammad Nawaz for six, a delivery that was then deemed a no-ball.
Nawaz followed that with a wide and from the next Kohli was bowled but, with the delivery still a free hit, India were able to scamper three via a deflection off the stumps.
The game swung again when Dinesh Karthik was then stumped only for Nawaz to bowl another wide to new batter Ravichandran Ashwin, this time down the leg side.
That left Ashwin needing to take one from the final delivery and he lifted the ball over mid-off to spark wild celebrations in the stands.
Kohli dropped to his knees in the middle, while Ashwin sprinted towards his onrushing team-mates.
Both sides have until Thursday to recover, when India face the Netherlands, before Pakistan play Zimbabwe.
A night for the ages
As the final delivery cleared the Pakistan fielders off Ashwin’s bat, a deafening roar engulfed the iconic MCG.
This match, one of the great sporting occasions between two rivals, was sold out within five minutes. Those lucky enough to in the stands witnessed a contest that will go down as one of the greatest T20s ever.
India were floundering at 45-4 after 10 overs, the top order swept aside by Pakistan’s searing pace attack, but Kohli was nerveless when all else suggested he should be anything but.
A stand of 113 from 78 balls with Hardik Pandya, who made 40 from 37, brought India back into the game.
Even before the final over the momentum swung back and forth. India were charging before the 15th over from Haris Rauf and the 16th from Naseem Shah went for six runs apiece. Yet Kohli then elegantly took 17 from the 18th bowled by Shaheen Afridi.
Hardik fell to the first ball of the last over at which point the decision to bowl Nawaz looked a masterstroke from Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam.
But ultimately he faltered badly, allowing India home in the most unlikely style.
Kohli produces another chasing clinic
Amid the madness the quality of Kohli’s innings should not be forgotten.
After KL Rahul was bowled by Naseem Shah, captain Rohit Sharma was caught at slip and Suryakumar Yadav was caught behind, both off Rauf’s pace, former skipper Kohli, who some suggested 12 months ago was not worth his place in the team, held firm.
He made a slow start, scoring only 11 from his first 20 balls, but was seemingly unfazed as the required run-rate climbed.
The 12th over, also bowled by Nawaz, ignited the chase, Kohli hitting one six and Hardik two as 20 runs were scored.
His best magic came at the end of the penultimate over with the game slipping away again.
India needed 28 from eight balls, but Kohli hit an incredible back-foot punch over bowler Rauf’s head for six and followed it with a flick over the fine leg rope.
Without those two hits India may not have had any hope in the final over.
Arshdeep’s burst and Pakistan’s recovery
By the end Pakistan’s batting innings seemed a distant memory.
It had begun in electric fashion as India left-armer Arshdeep Singh removed Babar lbw for a golden duck with his first ball, and in his next over had fellow Pakistan talisman Mohammad Rizwan caught at fine leg for four.
Pakistan did not lay bat on any of the first 10 balls, so devilish was the opening burst from Arshdeep and Bhuvneshwar Kumar on a pitch tinged with green.
They recovered impressively to a competitive score, at least meaning they are able to take positives from this crushing defeat.
Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed took their time to rebuild before the latter countered, hitting four straight sixes off spinners Ashwin and Axar Patel.
After he fell lbw to Mohammed Shami, Masood continued in relatively measured fashion amid a collapse of 5-29, the excellent India all-rounder Hardik taking three wickets by attacking the body of Shadab Khan, Haider Ali and Nawaz.
At 120-7 Pakistan’s innings could have fallen in a heap but instead there was a surprise contribution from Shaheen who struck 16 from eight balls, including a flat six over mid-wicket off Arshdeep.
It was a batting performance that showed Pakistan can win games against the best sides when Babar and Rizwan fail, something many doubted before the tournament. (BBC Sport)