How many times can Virat Kohli repeat his superlative effort of chasing big totals? This was the question everyone was asking when India were reeling at 49/3 after losing three top order batsmen – Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina.
After three average performances in the ongoing World T20, the MS Dhoni-led team was once again in a precarious situation of winning from an almost hopeless situation. And, when a little later Yuvraj Singh was seen hopping on the pitch with hamstring injury, it looked all but over for hosts barring a miracle could happen.
In a nutshell, India’s six-wicket win over Australia was not less than any miracle here on Sunday. It may have come as a surprise to the Australians but for all those die-hard Team India fans who have time and again seen Kohli play some extraordinary knocks in recent times, this was yet another opportunity to witness one more in Mohali.
And, he didn’t disappoint.
Electing to bat first, Australia rode on their rampaging opening pair to put up a fighting total of 160/6 in their allotted 20 overs. More than any bad performance by Indian bowlers, it was indeed a superlative effort by Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch to race away with 54-run partnership for the first wicket inside Power Play.
Playing the second match of the day on the centre wicket, after India and West Indies women teams locked horns in the afternoon, the Australian batsmen failed to capitalise on the opening cameo but still managed to put in what seemed to be a safe total on this two-paced wicket. The 44 dot balls that the Aussies played proved vital in the end.
In reply, Dhawan started with a cover boundary off Jose Hazlewood. After lifting a well-pitched delivery of Hazlewood in the next over for a six, Dhawan was caught at short fine-leg off Coulter-Nile’s short-pitched delivery.
In came Kohli, but by then his partner Sharma ran out of patience to hand Shane Watson his first wicket. With 37 for two after 5. 5 overs, the comparison with Aussie at this stage (58/1) was enough to judge the crucial difference in the match.
Batting fourth, after 60 overs of wear and tear, on this Mohali wicket was never going to be an easy task for any team. And then Raina, who was supposed to play sensibly, fared miserably yet again. At 49/3 in 7.4 overs, it seemed curtains for the hosts.
India had more trouble to come when Yuvraj pulled his hamstring early in his innings. Needing 102 from the remaining 11 overs, Dhoni kept Yuvraj on the ground in search of some quick boundaries. But Yuvraj continued to struggle and piled on the miseries till he left at the score of 94 in the 14th over.
The onus once again was on Kohli to compensate for Yuvi’s hobbling. In fact, Kohli was denied many singles or twos during this period of time. And, who else than to have his skipper at the other end? The two not only steadied the Indian ship but also ensured that it reaches the shore.
Kohli was on 37 and was set to play another match-winning knock. The two started running hard, converting at least five singles into twos in the next two overs to put pressure on the Aussie fielders.
The asking rate was simple – 47 off the next 24 balls – as retiring Watson was called in to bowl his last over. Kohli completed his half-century in 39 balls with the help of three fours and a six. It was the 18th over that proved to be the most productive for India when Kohli hit James Faulkner for two fours before dispatching an 86-metre six over long-off to amass 19 runs.
The equation became even more simpler now as India needed 20 off last 12 balls. A rampaging Kohli once again has brought India to the door of victory. It was only important now that he stayed till the end.
Nathan Coulter-Nile was called upon to bowl the penultimate over and Kohli smashed four boundaries in five balls after being beaten off the first delivery. With the match almost sealed, only four were needed off the last over, which Dhoni completed off the first ball.