Virat Kohli has inspired India to a remarkable four-wicket victory over Pakistan in their blockbuster Men’s T20 World Cup match at the MCG.
In one of his finest innings for India, Kohli hit an unbeaten 82 to haul his side out of mire and complete a stunning victory off the final ball of the match.
Needing 28 runs off the final eight balls, two huge sixes from Kohli helped reduce that equation to 16 off the final over, to be bowled by Mohammad Nawaz.
After losing Hardik Pandya (40) off the first ball of an extraordinary over, Kohli hit a six off a waist-high no ball off the fourth ball to keep India in the game.
Nawaz then sent down a wide, before bowling Kohli on the carried-over free hit. India still ran three from the deflection off the stumps.
Dinesh Karthik (1) was then stumped, but another wide to new batter Ravichandran Ashwin levelled the scores with a ball to play.
Ashwin cooly hit the final ball over mid off, belying the tension of the occasion, to win the game for India, sparking jubilant scenes in the stands and on the pitch.
“I honestly have no words, I have no idea how that happened,” Kohli said amidst a cacophony of noise in the post-match presentation.
“Hardik [Pandya] kept telling me ‘believe, believe we can do it, stay til the end’.
“Honestly, I’m lost for words … Standing here it just feels like it was meant to be, a very special moment.”
Played out in front of a capacity crowd of 90,293 fervent supporters at the MCG, this was the match that fans and neutrals alike had circled as the one to watch from the Super 12 stage.
And those supporters played a huge role in making the contest such a phenomenal occasion, roaring their approval with every boundary and wicket.
Having been sent in to bat by India, Pakistan had to fight hard to reach a competitive total.
Losing openers Babar Azam (0) and Mohammad Rizwan (4) was a blow that Pakistan at times looked like they would struggle to recover from.
Both were removed by the impressive Arshdeep Singh (3-32) in his first over to leave Pakistan in trouble at 2-15.
However, Iftikhar Ahmed and Shan Masood reset the Pakistan innings to reach 2-60 after 10 overs, at which point a Matt Hayden pep talk inspired Iftikhar to cut loose, the number four hitting four of his next nine deliveries for a series of massive sixes.
He made 51 off 34 balls before being trapped LBW by Mohammed Shami.
That sparked another mini-collapse as Shadab Khan (5), Haider Ali (2), Mohammad Nawaz (9) and Asif Ali (2) fell in the space of 26 balls.
Shaheen Shah Afridi blasted consecutive boundaries off Arshdeep to ruin his figures before chipping a tame caught and bowled chance back to Bhuvenshwar Kumar for 16 off 8.
Harls Rauf’s cameo included a huge six over square leg off his first delivery as Pakistan made 159 — hitting 99 off their final 60 balls.
India too struggled early with KL Rahul (4) and Rohit Sharma (4) both departing for single-digit scores.
Suryakumar Yadav (15) fell soon after, squeezed by a rising ball from Haris Rauf to quieten India’s raucous fans.
Mohammad Rizwan looked to have messed up a routine run out — he even turned away in disgust after failing to take the ball cleanly from Babar Azam’s throw — but third umpire Richard Kettleborough ruled that the ball had broken the bails before his gloves did and Axar Patel (2) had to go.
That left India reeling at 4-31 — a position from which they had never won a T20 international before.
Pandya and Kohli’s 113-run partnership for the fifth wicket helped rebuild India’s seemingly faltering chase.
Both unloaded in the 12th over though, launching Nawaz for three sixes to regain some momentum — the same point at which Pakistan surged in their innings.
Kohli continued his superb record with the bat against Pakistan, reaching his half century in the 18th over as India hit 17 runs off Shaheen to give themselves every chance.
An otherwise excellent 19th over from Rauf looked to give Pakistan back the advantage, but two incredible sixes from Kohli set up India’s remarkable heroics in the final over.
“Until today, I’ve always said Mohali was my best innings, against Australia,” Kohli said.
“I got 82 off 52 and today I got 82 off 53. They are exactly the same innings but I think today I will count this one higher because of the magnitude of the game and what the situation was.