Former skipper Virat Kohli hit an unbeaten 83 as India pulled off a miracle four-wicket victory over Pakistan in a final over thriller at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Melbourne
Kohli turned back the clock with a brilliant individual knock of 82 from just 53 deliveries that saved the day for India. He came to the crease in the second over when KL Rahul (four) was undone by Naseem Shah (1/23) and things looked forlorn for India when they when a fired-up Haris Rauf (2/36) reduced them to 31/3 after the batting Powerplay.
But Kohli kept his nerve and, just like he has done so many times previously, expertly guided India home in front of a crowd in excess of 90,000 at the MCG in Melbourne.
There was 31 needed from the last two overs and Kohli hit Rauf for two massive sixes on the final two deliveries of the penultimate over to make the equation 16 the final six balls.
Pandya fell on the first delivery of the final over, before Kohli put Mohammad Nawaz into the stands off a waist high full toss to make it six runs required from the final three deliveries to pull off the unlikely win.
Kohli was bowled on the ensuing delivery, but given it was a free hit India scrambled three byes to leave them in the box seat with just two needed from the final two balls.
Karthik was stumped on the second last delivery to give Pakistan hope, but Ravi Ashwin came to the crease to find the boundary with the final ball of the math to clinch a thriller for India.
The lack of a decent fourth seamer proved costly for Pakistan, with India targeting Nawaz during his spell while keeping their pacers at bay.
It was Shaheen Afridi that did the damage with the ball in Dubai last year, but this time around it was his fellow quicks as Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah broke through India’s top-order.
Pakistan’s pace trio bowled with sheer pace to reduce India to just 31/3 from their batting Powerplay and there was more carnage on the first ball of the seventh over when Axar Patel – promoted to No.5 in the batting line-up – was run out attempting a run that wasn’t there.
But Kohli and Pandya timed their run perfectly to guide Rohit Sharma’s side home in a thrilling encounter in Melbourne.
Pakistan have three days off before their next encounter and will look to bounce back to winning ways when they take on Zimbabwe in Perth on Thursday.
It won’t be an easy task though, with David Houghton’s side showing plenty of positives with both bat and ball when victorious in two First Round matches against Ireland and Scotland.
India’s next assignment is in Sydney on Thursday against the Netherlands.
India XI: Rohit Sharma (c), KL Rahul, Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Axar Patel, Ravi Ashwin, Mohammed Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Arshdeep Singh
Pakistan XI: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf