India Won 163 for 6 (Kohli 82*, Hardik 40) Pakistan 159 for the price of 8 (Masoud 52*, Iftikhar 51, Arshdeep 3-32, Hardik 3-30) for 4 wickets
That front foot…
Just the way he lunged at the ball…
Even in this game…
Even against these guys…
In a day when only the exceptional were allowed into the MCG, one of India’s greatest roles played what might be the greatest ever in T20 cricket. It must have been because, in the end, they beat Pakistan, and he rolled his eyes with tears.
How did it end
India went into the last three finishes needing 48 rounds to complete the 160th chase.
They were facing a bowling attack that was pulling every poison available on the field offering frightening speed and amazing bounce.
Throughout the night, Kohli was hitting a level that shouldn’t have been possible. Like the twenty-seventh letter of the English alphabet. It was unreasonable. Just like the sixties he hit to finish nineteen.
The first was a back-length slow ball that climbed above his waist. The only way he could hit it directly on the player’s head was if his willpower strengthened the laws of physics.
How do you clear the largest cricket ground on the planet when there is no speed on the ball, and when they were supposed to beat you? How?!
An equation that reads 28 out of eight balls becomes 16 out of six. And chaos still lurks.
Spin was the price I paid for this match to be great. Anyone who cannot put the ball is sent. Muhammad Nawaz knew the same fate that awaited him when he advanced to the final.
Kohli fired Nawaz on the giant square leg boundary, and long before the ball landed, he was referring to the no-ball. Pakistan did not like that. Babar Azam and the rulers engaged in a long, lively and emotional debate. It was a marginal call, maybe a full throw Just Above the waist, and in the end, India got the extra ball.
And also the free kick that Nawaz used to break Kohli’s torso, but that didn’t matter. You cannot take a share of the free kick. As the ball bounced away, Kohli sprinted for three runs. Cue the opposition from Pakistan again. They felt the ball should have been dead once it hit the stems, but the referees disagreed again. Rod Tucker recalled the meeting.
India needed two goals, but Kohli was ultimately not the attacker. And somewhere in the midst of it all, Dinesh Karthik was confused.
Two of one with R Ashwin on strike. Who writes these texts?
Nawaz ran…and threw wide down the side of the leg. Who wrote this text?!
Ashwin, one of the smartest people around the world, skipped that ball, and then when someone needed one, he casually sliced the ball mid-play, breaking the sound barrier of 90,293 people at the MCG — and countless millions at home — roaring every one. Some in ecstasy, some in agony.
Now it seems like a long time ago, but India also had another champion. His name was Archdeep Singh. Last month in the Asian Cup, he was caught in the last moments of a very tight match against Pakistan and met with severe abuse on social media. He is 23 years old. All he wants is to help his team win. And today he did just that, by removing Babar Azam L.B., with his first ball in the T20 World Cup.
At that time, this game was swaying and swaying and the white ball was capable of slender geometry. Pakistan was reduced to 32 for 2 in powerplay. Then Iftikhar Ahmed and Shan Masoud built a partnership. They brought down R Ashwin and Axar Patel. Spin couldn’t get a break in the game, dropping 107 passes on 72 balls and eight sixes and nine fours.
Pakistan rebounded to 59 throws in six runs right after the powerplay, prompting India to re-accelerate, and within 12 balls Hardik and Muhammad Shami had three wickets. Shaheen Afridi came in ninth and earned the NSFW Six belt on the longest limit of the floor in the middle of the deep, pushing the total to 159 for 8. And the match continued.
The best for the best
Defending the 160 is hard work, even for Pakistan. Since 2019, they have only managed to do this three times in 13 matches. This looked like lucky number four.
Rohit and KL Rahul got short notice. Suryakumar Yadav donned. India was 45 for 4 after 10 overages. If they were to win, they had to score roughly two rounds with the ball for their half innings.
Talk about a genius provocation. Kohli was 12 out of 21 at the time. He was picking himself up with six points from Noaz – a resounding kick after he came off the field. Hardek at the other end started as well. India had 55 shots in the five teams of 11 and 15 and Pakistan knew they had to return their big guns.
Shaheen was asked to rebalance the game. But he hasn’t played any cricket since July 2022 and all that rust has appeared. A would-be york turns into a low full throw – which isn’t the worst ball to put in T20 cricket, but it still keeps the hitter out of the room they want to hit the limits. But Kohli somehow managed it. All it took was a wrist wrap.
This loft over overtime cover beating three players – one running back and two converging from a deep, long cover point – was like a catharsis. Not long ago, Kohli admitted to faking his strength. Here, he felt his embrace and everything was normal. And it was good. So good that he really hit the air even though India still need 37 out of 15 balls.
Despite this, Hardek was still suffering. The pressure to find those sixes was up to him and he started looking in all the wrong places – like the MCG’s wicket box. Rauf threw a fine ball in the 19th minute – the first four balls anyway – to push the equation to 28 of 8. Then Kohli got the hit. He knew straight boundaries were shorter. And he went for them. I got one down the floor. Then another behind the wicket. And a homo. Just like that, 12 of 2. To be clear, to be that arithmetic, in this case, requires…
In fact, there is no real word for it.
Kohli said it himself. “I have no words. I have no idea how this happened.”
Alagappan Muthu is sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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