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March 2, 2014
'Proud of our boys today' - Kohli
With three overs remaining, Pakistan needed 17 runs to win, with four wickets in hand. Three of India's frontline bowlers had one over left of their 10-over quotas. Virat Kohli decided to bowl out his two seamers first and leave R Ashwin to bowl the last over of the match. The strategy nearly worked; India took three wickets in five balls in the last two overs, and left Pakistan's last-wicket pair nine runs to get from four balls.
Two sixes from Shahid Afridi won Pakistan the match, but Kohli said he was proud of how India fought, and didn't think he had gone wrong in leaving Ashwin to bowl the last over.
"Not at all," he said, after the match. "I knew that if I put the seamers in before and Ashwin comes to bowl, they will go for it. Wickets is all we wanted. If Afridi and Umar Gul had just played singles they would have won easily. I took that risk of putting the seamers in and making them hit the ball.
"We almost pulled it off as well in the end. Those last two sixes were not quite off the middle of the bat. One side was a small boundary, but that's how it goes. We almost pulled it off and I'm really proud of the way the team showed character in the field and with the bowling as well - 245 against a team like Pakistan and on that wicket with the dew is not easy to defend, but I think the guys showed a lot of character."
Kohli said India had done particularly well to run Pakistan so close considering the experience gap between the sides.
"If you compare the experience of our team with their team, it's massive, it's huge," Kohli said. "And in international cricket it really counts a lot. You can get away with it in Twenty20, but in the 50-over format you need to show a lot of character and that's exactly what the boys did.
"If you see the kind of batsmen they had and our bowlers with the inexperience they had, still to put up that kind of fight… I mean you see Amit Mishra, he gave only 28 runs in 10 overs, took two wickets, bowled brilliantly against the likes of Misbah, Hafeez, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi. So I think it was a commendable effort and I'm really, really proud of the way the guys fought it out."
Kohli praised the efforts of Amit Mishra, who came into the side for the first time in the tournament and took 2 for 28 in his 10 overs. Kohli hinted the legspinner might start featuring more frequently in the team's plans.
"Well that's one thing you can say now," he said, when asked if Mishra should have come off the bench sooner. "If he went for 70 in 10 I don't think you would have asked me that question. But I've always been really impressed by Amit Mishra. He's an attacking bowler, which I like as well. He always likes to make the batsman take on that extra fielder inside the circle.
"The way he bowled with such a small target to defend I think it was brilliant on his part. The amount of character he showed, he certainly put his hand up. In the future as well, if we want to play with three spinners or we want to go with the same kind of bowling attack, he would certainly be one of our priorities. He's brilliant with the ball, turns it on any sort of wicket and today he showed what he could do. I'm really, really happy for him."
After seeing how the spinners had controlled the ball better than the pace bowlers when dew started playing a part against Sri Lanka, Kohli decided he would select Mishra as a third spinner against Pakistan.
"Well the last game, the way it panned out… even with the dew, if you can get the wicket to dry out, and these wickets are pretty dry, so if the bowler can bowl three deliveries in an over on an area, it's much better for the spinner. He has more of a wicket-taking chance compared to the fast bowlers. With dew coming in at the end, the fast bowlers tend to go for plenty of runs. That was the idea in the last game itself.
"Rohit Sharma had contained them [Sri Lanka] pretty nicely and there I made a decision that we should go with three spinners. These guys have a lot of right-handers in the squad as well and Mishra turns the ball, so I wanted that attacking bowler in the bowling line-up and it almost paid off for us. I think he and Ashwin were the difference in the game today. The way they controlled that situation was magnificent."
As had been the case in their previous match against Sri Lanka, India missed chances on the field, with a missed stumping from Dinesh Karthik proving particularly costly. Kohli repeated what he had said after the Sri Lanka game - India would have to play smarter cricket.
"We are making mistakes regularly, which we need to correct because they are costing us in international cricket," he said. "If we make three or four crucial errors in each game, it's quite costly in the end. That is one thing we have to learn from and improve on because there's quite a bit of inexperience in batting and bowling. People learn from mistakes and I hope in the coming games we don't repeat these mistakes and play more smartly at crucial times."
India still have a chance of reaching the final, but they will probably need other matches to end in upsets. Kohli said he was not going to worry about other results.
"Well, I've personally stopped putting my money on the games that are left in the tournament," he said. "In Australia [2011-12 tri-series] as well, we were watching another game, and Sri Lanka almost beat Australia and we could have made the finals, but that didn't happen. Last time in Asia Cup as well we were hoping Sri Lanka beats Pakistan or Bangladesh, either of the two, but that didn't happen. All we can do is put up a strong performance in our game, try and get a bonus point, and then see. We'll know by March 4 what happens. We're just looking to improve our cricket and correct our mistakes."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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After the tragedy of Phillip Hughes' death, this match showed that cricket and life will continue to go on. This time Test cricket dug in and got through to tea.
Virat Kohli's innings on the final day transcended the conditions, the bowlers and his batting partners, and when it was all in vain, he displayed remarkable grace in defeat
The new stand-in captain has the makings of a long-term leader, given his ability to stay ahead of the game
The failed gamble of handing Karn Sharma a Test debut despite him having a moderate first-class record means India have to rethink who their spinner will be
Turning your back on a system that the whole cricketing world wants a discussion on, refusing to discuss it because it is not 100%, is not good enough
After a long time we have seen an Indian team and captain enjoy the challenge of trying to overcome stronger opposition in an overseas Test