A veritable Diwali gift from Virat Kohli and his men

India defeats Pakistan by four wickets at the T20 in Melbourne

Virat Kohli reflects on the victorious moment as Pakistan Wicket-Keeper Mohammad Rizwan looks down at MCG on October 23, 2022 (Photo by Martin Keep of AFP via Getty Images)

Josh Schonafinger (Cricket Australia)
Melbourne, October 24, 2022

A sublime innings from Virat Kohli has inspired India to a come-from-behind victory over rivals Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

He orchestrated one of the greatest chases in T20 history with a sublime unbeaten 82 to lead India to victory over Pakistan in front of 90,293 fans.

Chasing 160 for victory, Kohli joined forces with Hardik Pandya (40 off 37) in a 113-run partnership that lifted India from nowhere to a four-wicket victory.

The pair came together with their side in all sorts at 4-31 as Pakistan’s pace attack caused havoc to the much-vaunted Indian top order.

But despite requiring 12 runs an over for the final 10 overs, and 16 an over for the final three, Kohli found the boundaries (six fours, four sixes) at all the right times to claw his country over the line in an instant classic.

The architects of the super win in Melbourne: Virat Kohli with Hardik Pandya at the MCG on October 23, 2022 (Getty Images)

Recovery from the brink

India was on the brink, needing 28 runs from the final eight deliveries with Haris Rauf still to bowl two deliveries to close out his impressive spell.

Kohli produced an unbelievable straight six with the first, powering a back-of-the-length slower ball over long-on’s head, despite the batting maestro appearing to lose his balance in the shot.

He followed that with a flicked six over backward square leg which was met with a deafening roar as the mammoth crowd realised they were seeing something special.

Left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz was tasked with bowling the final over in which India needed 16 runs, with Babar Azam hesitant to go back to him after his third over, the 12th of the innings, cost 20 runs.

Pandya skied a catch off the first ball of the over, but Kohli stood up again when he re-took strike, pummelling a waist-high full toss for six to reduce the equation down to six runs off three.

But the drama did not stop there. For the resulting free hit, Nawaz followed up with a wide, and then bowled Kohli off the following free hit, which saw the ball skid past the third man and allow the batters to scamper back for three byes.

Two off two required, and another twist. Dinesh Karthik lost track of the ball after it was fired into his pads, allowing Rizwan to rip off the bails with his opposite number short of his ground.

A super over was a strong chance with two needed off the final ball and Ravichandran Ashwin on strike.

However, Nawaz bowled a leg-side wide to level the scores and the MCG erupted when Ashwin popped the next delivery over mid-off’s head.

Achieving the impossible

In the post-match interview, Kohli rated it as his best knock in the format, narrowly nudging his match-winning performance against Australia in Mohali at the 2016 T20 World Cup.

“Until today, I have said that Mohali was my best innings. I got 82 off 52 (against Australia) and today I got 82 off 53. But today, I will count this game higher because of the magnitude of the game and what the situation was. It seemed impossible,” Kohli said after the stunning victory.

Rauf brought the huge Melbourne crowd to life early in the chase with the two vital wickets of Rohit Sharma (four) and Suryakumar Yadav (15) to cripple the India chase.

The right-arm quick knows the venue well, having played seven matches at the MCG across three seasons for the Melbourne Stars, in which he grabbed 11 wickets including a memorable hat-trick against the Sydney Thunder in BBL in 2019.

The game in detail

India crawled to 4-42 at the halfway point of their innings after the promoted Axar Patel was run out after a mix-up with Kohli, bringing Pandya to the crease.

Earlier, Rohit Sharma won the toss and chose to chase, with the decision being immediately vindicated by his opening bowlers.

23-year-old Arshdeep Singh needed only one delivery to make a huge impact, trapping Babar lbw first ball with a ball that swung in a considerable amount.

The ball evoked memories of Shaheen Shah Afridi’s dismissal of Rohit Sharma in the 2021 T20 World Cup which behaved in a similar manner.

Number three Shan Masood was clearly feeling the pressure; after facing three dot balls to Arshdeep, he hit the ball straight to Kohli at mid-off and ran. Only Kohli’s misdirected underarm saved the left-hander from being run out for the duck.

Arshdeep’s next over showcased a lethal bouncer as well, which hurried Rizwan up and could only mistime his pull shot to Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the deep.

Bhuvneshwar was causing all sorts of issues for Pakistan’s top order and was unlucky not to take a wicket in the Powerplay.

He beat the bat six times in his three-over opening spell, taking 0-14 including 13 dots balls.

Masood’s charmed life continued when he got a life on 24 as Ashwin took a diving catch coming in from fine leg but replays showed the ball bounced just before it reached him.

And it was potentially a third life when a miscue hit the ‘spider cam’ wire in the 15th over, which the Indians thought cost them a wicket. However, the dead ball was called.

With Pakistan on 2-60 after 10 overs, Iftikhar Ahmed changed the game with four sixes in six deliveries, one-off Ashwin and three off Axar.

And then, the momentum changed again. Mohammed Shami got Iftikhar lbw (51 off 34 balls) to spark a collapse of three wickets in 11 balls.

A late flurry of runs (34 from the final three overs) came from the unlikely blades of Shaheen and Haris to get Pakistan up to 8-159.

The above article has been published courtesy of Cricket Australia.

PTI Reports:

Virat Kohli’s sensational unbeaten 82-run knock in India’s epic four-wicket win over arch-rivals Pakistan in their T20 World Cup opener was on Sunday hailed as one-of-a-kind innings by the cricketing fraternity led by iconic batter Sachin Tendulkar.

In front of a packed 90,000-plus crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Kohli redeemed himself with a magical 82 not out of 53 balls as India snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in one of their most memorable wins against Pakistan.

Tendulkar greets Kohli

“Virat Kohli, it was undoubtedly the best innings of your life. It was a treat to watch you play, the six off the back foot in the 19th over against Rauf over long-on was spectacular! Keep it going,” Sachin Tendulkar tweeted.

Thriller of a game which has beautifully set up India’s T20 World Cup campaign! Crucial contributions by a number of individuals, but a special mention to Hardik’s partnership with Virat which was very crucial for Team India,” he said.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan summed up the knock in just one word ‘Virat,’ followed by several fire symbols.

Former India opener Wasim Jaffer said: “Take a bow, Virat Kohli. An innings for the ages.”

India’s 2011 World Cup-winning hero Yuvraj Singh also reminded about the crucial winning shot played by Ravichandran Ashwin.

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