Kolkatta/Nagpur: Virat Kohli has a sense of timing — either when stroking the ball from the middle of the willow or conjuring an innings of substance and quality when his team needs it.
With India under immense pressure at the Eden Gardens on Saturday, Kohli’s equanimity complemented his stroke-making ability.
On a surface that tested a batsman’s technique and footwork, Kohli’s classical batting in a slam-bang format nailed the chase for India. In a ‘big game’, the champion batsman delivered.
The mercurial right-hander was unbeaten on 55 as India, pursuing 119 against Pakistan in 18 overs on a tricky wicket in a rain-reduced match, eventually romped home by six wickets with more than two overs remaining.
After the disastrous outing against New Zealand at Nagpur, India’s campaign in the ICC World Twenty20 is now back on track.
There was spongy bounce for the pacemen and appreciable turn for the spinners on the surface and Kohli was up for the challenge.
Rohit Sharma fell early to the lively Mohammad Amir. Then paceman Mohammad Sami, included in the side ahead of left-arm spinning all-rounder Imad Wasim, shook India with a double strike.
Undone by Sami’s pace
The left-handed Shikhar Dhawan played on, undone as much by Sami’s pace as his lack of footwork. Moments later, Sami’s extreme pace left Suresh Raina’s stumps in a mess.
Despite Sami’s strikes, Pakistan blundered by leaving out a spinner on this surface. The side could not sustain the pressure on the Indian batsmen.
Kohli and Yuvraj Singh raised 61 off 44 balls for the fourth wicket that took the game away from Pakistan. The right-left combination disrupted the line of the Pakistani attack as the fielding came apart gradually.
Kohli cover-drove and flicked with authority, bisecting the field with precision. Yuvraj whipped up some telling blows, including a rousing pulled six off left-arm fast bowler Wahab Riaz.
Yuvraj departed when victory was well within reach. Soon, Kohli raised his arms in triumph and the massive crowd roared. India had won.
Earlier, M.S. Dhoni’s decision to bowl was influenced by the possibility of the surface retaining some moisture following the rain and the pitch being covered.
When the game started, the ball spun, rather alarmingly too. R. Ashwin constantly beat the bat and found the edge.
Struggle for batsmen
Apart from the odd productive stroke, it was a struggle for the batsmen as only 24 runs came off the five PowerPlay overs.
Finally, Raina struck with his part-time off-spin. Sharjeel miscued a pull and fell to a brilliant diving catch by Hardik Pandya, who swiftly moved from long-on to deep mid-on.
Shahid Afridi surfaced at No. 3. but could not find the momentum on this surface. He was picked up at long-on off Pandya.
But then, it was Pandya who bled runs with Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal clubbing sixes on the leg-side.
Then Malik nonchalantly put away some loose stuff from Bumrah, collecting boundaries on either side of the wicket.
Akmal’s enterprising 16-ball 22 ended when he nicked an attempted cut off Jadeja. This was a track where Jadeja was hard to negotiate.
When Malik walked back, top-edging Ashish Nehra, for a 16-ball 26, he had put Pakistan in a position from where it could exert some pressure on India.
The feisty Kohli, though, had other ideas. He does relish the sniff of a duel.