India v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 18, 2012

Kohli ends personal Pakistan drought

Since Virat Kohli made his debut in 2008, he and India have played just four ODIs against Pakistan. The Champions Trophy game in Centurion when Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf took the game away from India, the 2010 Asia Cup match in Dambulla where Harbhajan Singh sealed it with a penultimate-ball six, the World Cup semi-final in Mohali, and today's encounter. Before today, Kohli's scores against India's fiercest rivals were 16, 18 and 9. He was thrilled that his Mirpur masterclass has cleared that blot on his CV.

"I hadn't done too well against Pakistan, played thrice before. Even in the World Cup semi-final, I got out and I was really disappointed. Playing against them is always a high-pressure game, all eyes are on that game. It is really satisfying to chase down a big score in a crunch game for us."

Still only 23, Kohli already has so many big innings that he was asked to rate where this stood among his best knocks. "I rate this (equal) with Hobart but yes this is special because of the game today, to get a hundred against a good opposition." The Hobart demolition job had given India a chance of reaching the final of the Commonwealth Bank series if Sri Lanka lost their final match. The 183 today gives India a chance of reaching the final if Sri Lanka win their final match.

Kohli's innings really skyrocketed once the batting Powerplay was taken after 35 overs. At that stage he was on 110, and India needed 115 to win. Eleven overs and a spree of Kohli boundaries later, he was on 177 and India needed 23 more, raising an outside chance of a third one-day double-century.

Did the thought ever cross his mind? "I don't know, I was just looking at the ball and hitting it," he said. "It did cross my mind once and I was like, this can't be real and I decided to focus on the game and react to the ball. It sort of crossed my mind but it was about keep batting, keep hitting the ball."

Another offshoot of the lack of matches against Pakistan is the lack of chances to learn how to read the variations of their top-quality spinners, particularly Saeed Ajmal. "Well I have seen him bowl earlier as well but I can tell you that is not easy to pick him," Kohli said. "You can watch the videos but still to play him is tough because he can turn it both ways. We had a plan against him, me and Rohit, it kind of worked for us. He is a world class bowler, perhaps the best spinner in the world right now."

While the headlines will belong to Kohli, it was a big day for another young India batsman as well. Rohit Sharma hit a rough patch in the one-dayers in Australia, and had been deprived of opportunities so far in the tournament. He responded with a half-century, and the 172-run stand with Kohli put India on the brink of a memorable victory. "I am a big fan of Rohit Sharma's batting," Kohli said. "When he plays a long innings, he is a treat to watch. It is an absolute pleasure to bat alongside him."

Their efforts silenced a largely pro-Pakistan crowd. If Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh on Tuesday, Kohli will get a chance on Thursday to improve his Pakistan record once more.

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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