It’s Virat Kohli’s big Diwali gift. A heroic innings to hand India victory over Pakistan in a crucial T20 World Cup cricket match in Australia. Kohli has rated it his best ever in a glittering T20I career.
“Till today I said Mohali was my best T20 innings. Then I got 82 off 52, today I got 82 off 53. Both are just as special. Today I will count this one higher because of the magnitude of the occasion and the situation we were in…All these months when I was struggling, you guys kept me going. Thank you so much,” Virat Kohli said as he collected the award for player of the match. The crowd of 90,000 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground roared, so much that Kohli could not hear himself speak.
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He called it a “surreal atmosphere.” Minutes before, Ravichandran Ashwin had run the winning run on the last ball of a dramatic last over that saw two wickets fall, a six off a no-ball, a free hit, Kohli getting bowled on the free hit but having the presence of mind to run three runs, gut-wrenching heartbreak for the Pakistanis, jubilation for the Indians.
Ashwin kept running, screaming, arms held out. Virat Kohli jumped up and down and then sank to the ground punching it, before his teammates descended to envelope him in celebration. He pointed a finger to the sky, clearly emotional.
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Later, Kohli said he had enjoyed the pressure as India chased Pakistan’s 159 for 8. He came in to bat when KL Rahul got out in the second over with India at 7 runs.
With wickets falling regularly at the other end and runs not being scored, Virat first played anchor. Then, he played the aggressor. He scored 11 runs off the first 20 balls he faced, 71 runs off the next 33.
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His partner in scripting the win was all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who came in to bat with India at 31 for 4. He scored an invaluable 40 off 37 balls.
“Hardik kept telling me, just believe we can stay till the end,” Kohli said.
Together they forced Pakistan to bowl their frontline bowlers by punishing spinner Mohammad Nawaz with two Hardik sixes and one Kohli six in the 12th over. That meant Pakistan had to give the last over to Nawaz to bowl.
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“When Shaheen bowled from the Pavilion end, I told Hardik we have to take him down. The calculation was simple. Nawaz had one over to bowl, so if I could take Haris down, they would panic,” Kohli said.
India needed 48 off the last 18 balls, 31 off the last 12, 28 off the last eight. Then, in the last two balls of the 19th over, bowled by Haris Rauf, came the two Kohli sixes that decided the match. Post match Kohli said he had calculated he needed two sixes at that stage.
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India had to score 16 runs off 6 balls to win. Hardik was out on the first ball, Dinesh Kartik off the fifth. Kohli hit the fourth ball of the over, a full toss, for a six. It was also called a no-ball, which Pakistan hotly contested. It resulted in a free hit that Kohli used to score three more runs. But not before Nawaz had bowled another wide.
The long last over ended in a historic 4-wicket win for India.