Kohli’s magnificent knock behind India’s last ball victory

By Kersi Meher-Homji 

Not only a huge crowd cheered India’s thrilling last ball victory over traditional rivals Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) last night but probably millions on the streets of Mumbai, Karachi, Kolkata, Lahore, Chennai, Bangalore, Islamabad…

It was the much awaited clash between India and Pakistan at the MCG in the T20 World Cup cricket match. And what a match, the result in doubt till the last ball!

Pakistan looked certain to win as India had lost their openers skipper Rohit Sharma and Lokesh Rahul for 10 runs and their first four wickets for 31 in reply to Pakistan’s 8 for 159.

Then King, nay Emperor, Virat Kohli changed the scenario with a magnificent innings of 83 not out off 53 balls with sixes galore. I have seen many thrillers in my 70 years of cricket watching and this was among the best. Perhaps THE MOST THRILLING.

Unlike the match between the other neighboring teams – Australia and New Zealand – on Saturday which the latter won easily, the Indo-Pak tussle was a cliffhanger in the final six overs.

Sent in to bat Pakistan lost their openers and best batsmen skipper Babar Azam and ‘keeper Mohammad Rizwan for only 15 runs. Then Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed scored fifties and Pakistan reached 159. Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya took three wickets each.

Four wickets down for 31 and 129 needed off only 83 balls, India’s chances looked slim. Then Kohli and Hardik Pandya (40 runs) added 113 precious runs in 78 balls. A ray of hope, I thought. But the TV experts predicted chance of a Pak victory 85% against India’s meagre 15%.

India needed 48 runs for a victory off 18 balls and then 28 to get off 8 balls. Even Napoleon would have called it an impossible target! But not maestro Kohli. His two gigantic sixes in the 19th over brought India close to win which was achieved off the LAST ball of the epic encounter.

To quote Alex Malcolm in CricInfo, “When Kohli soared, 90293 people at the MCG roared.”

An ecstatic Person of the Match Kohli said at the presentation, “Well, it’s a surreal atmosphere. I honestly have no words. I have no idea how that happened. Hardik kept telling me, just believe we can stay till the end. I’m lost for words. Well, I think when Shaheen [Afridi] bowled from the Pavilion end, I told Hardik we have to take him down. The calculation was simple. [Mohammad] Nawaz had one over to bowl, so if I could take Haris Rauf down, they would panic. It came down to 16 runs off 6 balls.

“I’m kind of lost for words [on the two sixes off Rauf.] It’s just instinctively I saw it, told myself to stay still. The one at long-on was unexpected, it was a back-of-a-length slower ball. The fine leg one, I just threw my bat at it. Till today I said Mohali was my best T20 innings. Then I had scored 82 off 52 balls, today I got 82 off 53. Both are just as special. All these months when I was struggling, you guys [the crowd] kept me going. Thank you so much.”

It may be mentioned that India had won the initial T20 World Cup (WC) in 2007 and Pakistan the second T20 World Cup in 2009. Since then four T20 WCs have been played without India or Pakistan winning.

India will meet Nederland at Sydney on Thursday, the 27th October. India has made a wonderful start to recapture the crown after 15 years – God and Kohli willing!

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