A chop onto the stumps in the second over, an edge carrying to the slips and soon another edge getting through to the wicketkeeper – in short, India were in tatters and Pakistan bowlers, Haris Rauf in particular, had their tails up. The nightmares of 152/0 started flashing the minds of Indian fans as the chase of 160 started feeling like that of 200 against a roaring MCG crowd in the T20 World Cup, last year. All this had happened through the powerplay. To make matters were, Axar Patel was run out in the seventh over and Virat Kohli at the other was delegated to being just a spectator.
At 5 (9) with just six wickets in hand and the run rate nearing 10, Kohli knew what he had to do but this time the acceleration had to be delayed because with one more wicket, it could have been over for India. So Kohli and Hardik Pandya ensured that no damage took place in the next five overs. After which the gears shifted. Hardik made the first strike against Mohammad Nawaz. Kohli joined the party in the next over and slowly it seemed as if Kohli had taken it upon himself to get the job done.
Kohli was the only one to make something of note amid the 2021 T20 World Cup debacle against this very opposition. It felt like this was personal for Kohli. He wanted to be there at the end. He wanted to be the guy who took his side over the line. The rescue job was done, a boundary came nearly every over to ensure that the run rate didn’t go out of reach and it was time to go. But the required rate was 16 now with just 18 balls now.
Shaheen Afridi was the first target as Kohli smashed three fours as India collected 17 runs off the over, one more than what was required. The wrecker-in-chief Rauf arrived for the penultimate over and did well for himself going for just three runs in four deliveries. The pressure was now the highest, the required rate had gone up to 21 and India were in desperate need of boundaries. Till then Kohli was playing, during the last eight deliveries, the King took his throne.
A length ball around thigh height on stumps, Kohli was cramped for room by Rauf but in a matter of milliseconds, Kohli made a last-minute shift of getting to the leg side to give himself a little more as he hoisted the ball straight over the bowler’s head in one of the shots of the tournament. He walked sideways to almost acknowledge and admire what he had just done. But he didn’t have much time as 22 runs were still remaining and only 7 balls left.
Kohli had seeped into Rauf’s skin by now and now he was dictating the terms. A six over fine-leg of the final delivery and 16 runs were left. Two wickets, a six, a wide, a no-ball and a triple – everything happened in the final over bowled by Mohammad Nawaz but eventually it was India and Virat Kohli, who denied Pakistan a repeat of 2021 and an early Diwali gift.
Rohit Sharma lifted Kohli, Kohli didn’t understand the enormity of what he had done, the MCG was up on its feet after witnessing probably the best India-Pakistan game in a decade. A year later Virat Kohli is still the best chaser in the game and India is still winning games in World Cup.