India's Virat Kohli celebrates
Melbourne (AFP) - Skipper Rohit Sharma ranked Virat Kohli’s match-winning exploits against Pakistan as not just his best-ever innings but one of the greatest in Indian cricket history, with the superstar batsman admitting he had never experienced such emotion.
Former captain Kohli lit up the T20 World Cup on Sunday with an unbeaten 82 that steered his team to an incredible last-ball win in front of 90,000 fervent drum-beating fans at a pumping Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Kohli was in tears at the end, overcome by the occasion, with Sharma hailing his cool head.
“Definitely his best for sure, but I think from the situation we were in, and to come out with a victory, I think it has to be one of India’s best knocks,” said Sharma of Kohli’s 53-ball effort.
“Because until the 13th over we were so behind the game, and the required rate was just climbing up and up.
“But to come out and chase that score was an extremely brilliant effort from Virat, and then obviously Hardik (Pandya) played a role there as well.”
India’s task looked almost impossible when they were 45-4 at the halfway point of their chase of 160 to win.
But Kohli and Pandya put on a century stand to keep hopes alive though India still needed 28 from the last eight balls.
Kohli then smacked two huge sixes off Haris Rauf, one an extraordinary drive straight back over the bowler’s head, to reduce the chase to 16 off the final over.
It was bowled by Mohammad Nawaz and turned out to be one of the most remarkable overs seen in cricket with two wickets, two wides, a no-ball, a six and high drama as the atmosphere hit fever pitch and the noise became deafening.
First Pandya’s attempted slog was caught at cover before a single from Dinesh Karthik put Kohli back on strike.
India still needed 15 off four balls, which Kohli reduced to 13 off three with two to long on before the chaotic conclusion.
India's Virat Kohli celebrates after the win against Pakistan
Kohli smashed a full toss – which was called a no-ball – for six leaving six to win off three balls, Kohli on strike with a free-hit.
Nawaz bowled a wide, meaning the next ball was still a free-hit. Kohli was bowled but still managed to scamper for three byes as the ball ricocheted off the stumps.
Karthik, back on strike, was stumped down the leg side leaving Ashwin to face the final ball with two still needed.
Nawaz went legside for another wide before Ashwin chipped the winning run off the final ball to end an over – and a match – that had it all.
- ‘I am numb’ -
“It is one of the most memorable nights for sure. I have played for 15 years, but never experienced emotions like this,” admitted Kohli on the BCCI website.
“The last time I experienced something like this was against Australia in Mohali (at the 2016 T20 World Cup).
Indian fans celebrate at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
“I was a bit emotional then but now I am numb, maybe because that was the quarter-final for us, this is the first game.”
Kohli said Pandya, who made 40, should be given credit.
“He (Pandya) was fearless in that partnership. He kept telling me ‘let’s bat deep and build a partnership as anything could happen’. He really kept me focused at that point.”
Kohli last year relinquished the T20 captaincy after a disastrous World Cup which included a thrashing by Pakistan.
He was then sacked as ODI skipper and in January also gave up the Test captaincy.
The 33-year-old had also endured a prolonged lean patch with the bat, admitting in August his mental health had suffered during his slump in form.
“It will take a little bit of time to sink in,” Kohli said.
“But as professionals we understand that this is just one game and why it’s so special because from the situation that we were in to get these two points … is very, very crucial.”
“This has given tremendous belief to us.”
India now face Netherlands in Sydney on Thursday, before meeting Bangladesh, South Africa and Zimbabwe to complete their Super 12 campaign.