Kohli said he “will count it higher” than his 82* off 51 balls against Australia in Mohali (in 2016 T20 WC), which was “my best innings” so far.
Kohli is back, and there could be no better news for India as they begin their World Cup campaign in tough conditions in Australia. He took charge of a chase of 160 in the company of Hardik Pandya on a fast, bouncy pitch after India collapsed to 31/4 in 6.1 overs. Kohli and Pandya believed and put on 113 runs for the fifth wicket as India got out of jail by four wickets.
Maybe he began to doubt himself, maybe the cobwebs of the mind kept him from playing at his best. Perhaps he needed this biggest stage to free himself from self-imposed shackles.
It was only when KL Rahul and the others rushed to give him a bear hug that Kohli was jolted out of his reverie. He just pointed a finger at the sky, as if to remind himself of his abilities. The younger Kohli would have jumped and shouted in jubilation after playing a knock like this under extreme pressure. This Kohli is older, more calculated, more measured but so hungry.
Kohli later revealed that after the end of 18 overs, with India still needing 31 from the last two, he decided he would face Pakistan’s hottest, best bowler on the day, Haris Rauf. “If I could take down Haris, they would panic,” he said. It was an approach that only the most audacious, the most desperate or the most talented could take. It came off.
‘Miracle in Melbourne’: Virat Kohli charms fans in a cliffhanger
The fifth ball, Kohli came up with an incredible shot, a six straight over the bowler’s head that Hardik Pandya later described as “unbelievable”, shaking his head. The next one was another six, a six over fine leg, and Rauf, the MCG veteran who plays for Melbourne Stars, was on his knees. The momentum has shifted. “That was the moment we knew it had come our way,” captain Rohit Sharma said later.
“It’s a surreal atmosphere. ” Kohli said, “I honestly have no words. I have no idea how this happened. Hardik kept telling me, just believe we can stay till the end. I am lost for words. All the months when I was struggling, you kept me going.”
India still needed 16 from the last over, but they knew they would defy the slow left-arm spin of Mohammad Nawaz. “I used to bowl the quicks because we needed wickets. That was the call I took,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam would later say. The first ball, Hardik mistimes a stroke straight to cover point. Fourth ball, Kohli hits a full toss for six, and it’s called a no-ball for height! Pakistan was suffocating. One wide and three byes later, with two needed from two, Dinesh Karthik was stumped before Ashwin sealed the deal.
T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli shines in India’s win over Pakistan
Earlier in the day, there was also a wobble from the top order, when Pakistan batted. It was Arshdeep Singh who starred with the ball, getting Babar Azam first ball and showing that precocious talent has translated into a proven performer. But India still leaked 99 runs in the last 10 overs as Iftikhar Ahmed and Shan Masood scored half-centuries to give Pakistan’s batsmen something to defend.
In the end, Kohli’s brilliance overshadowed them all.