Virat Kohli’s last-gasp masterclass sees India past Pakistan in game for the ages

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Virat Kohli’s last-gasp masterclass sees India past Pakistan in game for the ages

  • Group 2, Melbourne: India (160-6) beat Pakistan (159-8) by 4wkts
  • Rollercoaster T20 World Cup match ends in remarkable innings
Virat Kohli wheels away as the match is won

Cometh the hour, cometh the absolute bedlam. It all came down to the final over, a few wild minutes in which everything that could happen did, and quite a few things that couldn’t also did.

At the start of that over India needed 16 off six to steal victory. At the end of it Mohammad Nawaz had bowled nine, Virat Kohli had been bowled off a free hit (and run three byes), there had been a six, a no-ball, two wides, a catch and a stumping, and Kohli was running around with his arms in the air. “I honestly have no words,” he said a few moments later. “I have no idea how that happened.”

Kohli produced an innings for the ages to drag his side off the floor, scoring 82 off 53 balls, adding 113 for the fifth wicket with Hardik Pandya, and India won by four wickets, but these are just numbers.

This was an extraordinary game and an extraordinary night, an occasion as much about the noise that swirled around this enormous bowl, the contributions of all 90,293 actors present in a supporting role, as the 22 on the field. When Rohit Sharma was asked for his reaction at the end, he said: “I have no voice left.” And he will not have been alone in that.

There is no fixture like this in world cricket. All the nonsense that surrounds International Cricket Council tournaments, all the sponsorship snafus and organisational issues, are worth it just to force these sides together. Even two hours before the start the atmosphere around the MCG, among the streams of fans heading towards the ground from Melbourne’s city centre and the honking cars driving past them with more fans spilling out of the windows, was intoxicatingly raucous and joyful.

The noise from the stands varied throughout from extreme to absurd, with occasional very brief periods where one team’s supporters or the other’s briefly quietened. Both will have endured moments when they felt the game was lost.

Pakistan’s came quickly, after they had been put in to bat and within four terrific overs were 15 for two with their openers, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who so regularly and greedily gobble up most of their innings and score most of their runs, both out. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh were both sensational in these early overs, even if it was the latter, and later Pandya, who hoovered up most of the wickets.

Shan Masood came in at three and for a while, as he offered and survived two run-out chances, his judgment appeared to have been completely cooked in the cauldron, but having survived them he and Iftikhar Ahmed resuscitated his side’s chances with a partnership of 76. There was only a short period when Iftikhar truly reached top gear – amounting to little more than one mercilessly pulverised Axar Patel over – in which time he went from 25 off 24 balls to a half-century off 32, and for a few delicious moments Pakistan could ponder how far beyond 160 they might be able to go.

He was out two balls later and in the end they reached 159, thanks in part to a couple of entirely out‑of‑character shots from Shaheen Shah Afridi, who in the space of two balls doubled his career tally of both sixes and fours in this format.

Then it was India’s turn and, however awkwardly Pakistan started their innings, Shaheen, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf ensured their opponents got it just as bad. At the end of their powerplay they were 31 for three, one run and one wicket worse off than Pakistan had been at the same stage, and a ball later Axar Patel was controversially given run out after a TV review, even though the ball was not in Rizwan’s gloves when he broke the bails.

This brought Kohli and Pandya together, and eventually they heaved India out of the doldrums. Perhaps they were not always in control of the chase, but at least they looked like they believed they were. There was no sense of panic as the overs disappeared and the required run rate climbed and finally, with three overs to go and 48 needed, they shifted gear.

(Left to right) The captains of Australia, India and England – Aaron Finch, Rohit Sharma and Jos Buttler.
“We were always wanting to make sure we stayed in the game as long as possible,” Rohit said. “We’ve been talking constantly about it. No matter what the situation, you’ve got to believe you can pull through.”

That belief will never have been stronger. Shaheen’s final over went for 17 with three fours, Rauf’s last for 15 with two wonderful Kohli sixes, and that left 16 to find off the last. Time, at last, for the real drama to start.

“From the situation we were in, to come out with victory it has to be not just his best knock, but one of India’s best knocks,” Rohit said.

None can have been more memorable.