Is there anything a certain Virat Kohli can’t do ? Virat Kohli seems to have done PhD in run-chasing ! 7 of his 11 hundreds have come in run-chases with India winning every time. He has scored 3 centuries and a half-century in his last 4 ODI innings, and has enabled India to chase monumental targets with ease. Virat Kohli hit 183 off just 148 balls to engineer India’s run-chase as India defeated their arch-rivals Pakistan by 6 wickets and with two overs to spare. Kohli’s 133 at Hobart a couple of weeks ago against Sri Lanka was just a trailer of what Virat Kohli had in store to offer. In a must-win game for India, Indian batting once again came to the party as they tamed the much hyped Pakistani bowling attack with relative ease. Kohli innings was studded with 22 boundaries and 2 sixes, which covered every part of the ground. India’s fate now depends on tomorrow’s match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. If Sri Lanka win, India would once again face Pakistan in the final on 22 March. Whereas if Bangladesh continue their dream run and beat Sri Lanka, India would be knocked out of the Asia Cup.
Pakistan decided to bat first after winning the toss, hoping to post a huge total and back their bowlers to pressurize the Indian batting order. As far as the 1st innings was concerned, everything went as per plan for Pakistan. Pakistan had a positive surprise in the form of Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed. The opening duo raced their way to a mammoth 224 run opening partnership, the best opening stand in Asia Cup ever. Both Hafeez (105) and Jamshed (112) matched each other neck to neck as both of them notched up their hundreds in consecutive overs. Once again the batting powerplay, introduced in the game to help batsmen, paved the way for the bowling team. Within the space of two overs, Jamshed and Hafeez were back in the pavilion. Thought the experience of Younis Khan and the energy of Umar Akmal (28) denied India a comeback. Younis Khan shot back to form with a whirlwind 52 off just 34 balls before he was removed by a stunning one-hand diving catch by Raina at covers. India did reasonably well in the death overs this time around to restrict Pakistan to 329/6 in 50 overs.
Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni were the only players who didn’t had a bowl as India used as many as 8 bowlers to contain the Pakistani batsmen. Ashok Dinda was the pick of the bowlers as he picked up 2 for 47 in 8 overs. Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan had an off-day on field as both of them conceded 146 runs in mutual.
Indian captain Dhoni was optimistic about the chase, as he truly believed that this pitch would get better under the lights with the ball coming on better. Though, Gautam Gambhir didn’t look much optimistic about the chase, as he was given lbw on the very second ball of the innings to Mohammad Hafeez, as he was late to flick a ball on leg-side which crashed against his pads. With no runs on board, and one opener already in the pavilion, Pakistan looked on top. But in came Virat Kohli, who has been in the best form of his life. Kohli, along with a reborn Tendulkar, after scoring his 100th ton, got India off the blocks. Both played some stunning shots and punished the Pakistani bowlers with supreme authority. Misbah was quick to introduce Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal to hault Indian onslaught, and it worked too. Tendulkar (52), shortly after completing yet another half-century, failed to identify a doosra by Ajmal. With 197 more runs for victory, India still had a long way to go. Rohit Sharma gave the already strong going Virat Kohli good company at the crease. Both youngsters stabilized the Indian innings but also scored at a brisk rate. Kohli soon notched up yet another 100, 11th overall, as he made a rather out-of-frustration gesture after reaching the milestone. None of the Pakistani bowlers could trouble any of them, as runs came easily without any risk whatsoever. Rohit Sharma also made sure he used the batting friendly conditions to his benefit, as he got his form back with a well compiled 68. Virat Kohli kept going as he shifted gears after scoring his 100. Kohli slammed boundaries in almost every over as the asking rate came down to 6 runs/over. Kohli (183) almost guided India home before he got out at the very end after miscuing a pull, in the same fashion as Rohit Sharma. Suresh Raina (12*) and Dhoni (4*) completed the formalities for India as India thrashed Pakistan with 6 wickets and 2 overs to spare.
If Sri Lanka defeats Bangladesh tomorrow, which is likely to happen, India would play Pakistan again, this time for the trophy. In that case, this win would give India abundant confidence. This match was tagged as the contest between Pakistani bowling and Indian batting, and clearly the Indian batting was too hot to handle for Pakistan.
We were all praying so that Sri Lanka would lose to Australia in the CB series, and just after two weeks, we are praying so that Sri Lanka would win. Indeed, Cricket is a funny game !
BRIEF SCORES :
PAKISTAN : 329/6 in 50 overs ( Jamshed 112, Hafeez 105 ; Dinda 47/2 )
INDIA : 330/4 in 47.5 overs ( Kohli 183, R Sharma 68 ; Gul 65/2 )
BY 6 WICKETS AND 13 BALLS TO SPARE
Man of the Match : Virat Kohli.