Indians win despite Denly ton
Indians 164 for 6 off 20 overs (Kohli 78, Rohit 30, Tredwell 2-18) beat Kent 159 for 5 (Denly 100, RP Singh 2-36) by 5 runs
A century from Joe Denly went in vain as Kent failed to make eight runs off the final over, and lost an exciting match to the Indians by five runs. Riding on Virat Kohli's vibrant 78, the Indians had managed to set up a challenging target, but Denly, who has played five Twenty20 internationals for England in addition to nine ODIs, drove the chase before he was bowled seven balls from the end.
Originally meant to be a 50-over encounter, the match was converted to a 20-over one after rain delayed the start. It was a long Friday for everyone. After the rain had played spoilsport, news poured in that a suspect package was found near the Canterbury West Railway Station and there was a fire in the Marks & Spencer store near the team hotel. The main road leading to the city centre from the St Lawrence county ground had been cut off. Still, the die-hard fans, who had bought tickets months in advance and had waded through the streams of water gushing down from the slope at the ground entrance, did not panic and leave. Instead they stayed put and even enjoyed the bhangra music, performed by the local group Jugnu, who kept the crowd going through the afternoon and evening.
And what an evening it was. It belonged entirely to Denly till Munaf Patel's nail-biting final over. Denly had started on the wrong foot when he charged at RP Singh and tried to hit the third ball of the chase over the bowler's head. He only succeeded in getting an inside-edge that raced down to the fine-leg boundary. RP Singh followed that up with two wides.
When Vinay Kumar came in from the Nackington Road end, Denly flicked him for consecutive boundaries, beating a harried Parthiv Patel at deep square leg. Denly then swept Amit Mishra for a flat six to move quickly into the 40s. When Mishra returned from the Pavilion end, Denly cut him for another easy four.
Only R Ashwin managed to keep Denly quiet, with the batsman smartly respecting him once he realised he could take easy runs off the other bowlers. No other Kent batsman managed to cross 17 but that was also because Denly took most of the strike during the two major partnerships in the innings. A 60-run stand for the second wicket with Martin van Jaarsveld helped Kent stay in the race. Denly then combined well with allrounder Darren Stevens in a 73-run stand.
Forty-nine runs were needed from the last six overs. That became 37 from the last four. Denly pulled RP Singh for a four and then cleared cow corner with a powerful six. Eighteen were need from 12 deliveries. Denly got to his hundred with a hard-run two off a free hit. But the very next ball, he was caught in two minds as his body was positioned to play the pull but the arc of his bat suggested he wanted to cut it, and he ended up being bowled.
Kent needed a further eight runs from the final six deliveries. Munaf, who had been off colour during the Indians' tour game in Hove, bowled off a slightly shorter run-up but put in more effort. He gave away two singles off the first two balls and then kept Sam Northeast guessing with his lengths off the next two deliveries. Stevens and the Kent fans were growing anxious. Off the fifth ball Stevens charged for a single when Northeast failed to connect. Northeast failed to reach the non-striker's end, meaning the hosts still needed six off the last ball. Munaf clean bowled Stevens with a yorker and let out a shriek.
India had recovered well in their innings after Parthiv Patel was dismissed off the third ball of the match. Rahul Dravid, a former overseas player for Kent, failed to make an impact, falling for 15 when he pulled straight to short midwicket where James Tredwell dived forward brilliantly to complete the catch.
Over the last year Kohli has proved that he can bat comfortably in his own space and not let anything distract him. In Hove he had led India towards their target without breaking a sweat in the company of Rohit Sharma. The only difference in Canterbury was Rohit remained largely a bystander throughout their 69-run stand for the third wicket as Kohli doused the Kent bowling with a straight blade, a sharp eye, powerful wrists and good footwork. India had scored just one boundary by the end of the third over when Kohli came in. Immediately he flicked Matt Coles past the fine-leg boundary, then hit over mid-off for two, and improvised the very next ball by hitting over the bowler's head for another boundary.
It was at the same venue that Kohli had made 123 in a Youth Test against the likes of Steven Finn and Adil Rashid back in 2006. Kohli was in a dominant mood today as he clobbered a full toss from Stevens high over deep midwicket. He then pulled offspinner Adam Riley over deep square leg for his second six and, in his next over, cleared his back foot and swatted Riley high over long-off for another six.
Sadly Kohli's innings ended abruptly as he slog-swept Tredwell towards deep midwicket where Denly fumbled, prompting Suresh Raina to call for a second run. Kohli seemed happy with the single but Raina's desperate calls forced him to respond and even a full-stretched dive could not save him from being run out. A disappointed Kohli let Raina know that there was no need for a rushed extra run. He needn't have worried. He had helped India to a winning target.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo