Pakistan v India, Champions Trophy 2017, final, The Oval June 18, 2017

Kohli loses duel with red-hot Amir

For India to stand a chance, Virat Kohli had to win his battle with Pakistan's seamers, but Mohammad Amir used his angle and intellect to take out India's best
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Dravid: Amir spell made for compelling viewing

Virat Kohli had not walked in this early in the tournament. In fact, Kohli has had to bat only three times in the first over, at No. 3. Two of those instances occurred when India were chasing: against Australia in 2010 and Pakistan in 2012. Both times Kohli took India home with a century. His 183 against Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup final remains his highest score in ODIs. Mohammad Amir was serving his spot-fixing ban at the time.

On Sunday, when Kohli got in, Amir was already raging. He had tempted Rohit Sharma with a full delivery angling away off the first ball of the innings. Rohit fell for the trick and was lucky not to have dragged the ball on to his stumps. The next delivery was similar. Rohit let it go.

Then came the beauty: an inducker that pitched on a good length, moved in with a straight seam and hit Rohit in line with leg stump. Rohit wasted time thinking the review could bail him out. Umpire Richard Kettleborough timed him out, asking him to depart. Amir pumped his hands furiously.

In walked Kohli. For India to win, Kohli had to win. He twirled his bat. He chewed gum. He took a leg-stump guard. Amir rushed in. Kohli survived a sharp, 90 mph delivery that screamed away. Even the world's No.1 ranked batsman looked vulnerable.

The next ball pitched on a good length. Kohli punched to the right of Shoaib Malik at mid-off. Kohli casually ran forward, confident the ball was speeding to the boundary. Malik, though, intercepted to send Kohli back. Kohli then moved outside the line of the final delivery of the over, flicked neatly and picked up two runs.

With the angle Amir was coming at him, Kohli was always in danger of getting opened up. Kohli was vulnerable when he faced Amir in the Asia Cup last year too.

India's top three helped India to the final. Mohammad Amir knocked them all over © Getty Images

On Sunday, off the third ball of Amir's second over, Kohli was unravelled. It pitched on a good length, forcing Kohli back. The ball moved away and took a thick edge of Kohli's open-faced bat. Amir almost took off in celebration. Pakistan flags erupted across The Oval even before the ball reached Azhar Ali, at first slip. Azhar just had to accept the gift that came his way. Instead, he whipped his cap in disgust after dropping a sitter. Amir turned back swiftly, after giving Azhar a glare.

Next ball, Kohli made up his mind. He moved a step across off stump, premeditating a flick. Amir did not change his plan. The ball was full, pitched on the seam, and angled away. Kohli was caught in an awkward position and the leading edge flew into the hands of Shadab Khan at point. The Pakistan fans erupted in joy again, this time not just momentarily.

Kohli stood in disbelief. Shikhar Dhawan tried to console his captain by putting his arm around him. Kohli was defeated. He did not hide it. In this tournament, Kohli had not faced a left-arm fast bowler of Amir's pace and intellect. Kohli has always stressed on how he visualises contests before a big match. He would have undoubtedly imagined what Amir would do to him. Amir shattered it in seven balls.

"Dropping Virat Kohli, a guy who chases runs for fun, he does it best in the world," Azhar said after the game. "So dropping him was a really, really big disappointment. But I was the most relieved man after he got out the next ball. That kind of batsman never gives you that sight again and again, getting out in two balls."

Not much fazes Virat Kohli in chases, but Mohammad Amir's angle did © Getty Images

Azhar Mahmood, the Pakistan bowling coach, revealed that he asked the fast bowlers to attack the channel outside off stump and force Kohli to play early. Amir executed perfectly. "Early on when Virat comes in, bowl the fourth, fifth stump, take the ball away, he is a big candidate of nicking off," Mahmood said. "Amir had done it before, too. The plan was there, but it had to be executed."

Another key element in Amir's spell was his aggressive body language. According to Mahmood, that was a conscious strategy. "We are very friendly with the Indian players off the field and sometimes, we take it on the field as well. Yesterday during our discussions, I told them we should have a ruthless body language on the field."

Since his return, Amir has been carrying the burden of expectation. The image was established in 2010: of Amir rushing in with flowing hair, swinging and seaming the ball in and out, hitting edges, knocking back stumps, trapping batsmen in front.

Expectations were high after Amir's return to international cricket. The wait has been agonising. As he charged in to Kohli on Sunday, hearts raced. Something was going to happen. Mohammad Amir happened.

Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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  • Naresh28 on June 20, 2017, 8:03 GMT

    India needs to invest in the new talent pace bowlers. Yes Barinder Sran was a good left hand pace bowler to consider. Ankit Chauhdary is another. Right armers there is Nathu Singh, Basil Thampi, The question remains why we dont have a pace bowling coach? On Kholi and Amir , I think Kohli should stand closer to off stump to handle Amir. Amir bowls well just outside offstump and is fast and accurate.

  • AllHailCricket on June 20, 2017, 7:26 GMT

    Let me put this out quite bluntly. Considering Amir's record since his return and even if you were to consider his recent record (last 10 matches), he's nowhere near the class of a great bowler he's made out to be. Wasim Akram is a great not because he used to bowl great once every 10 matches, but because he bowled really well almost 60-70% of the matches and, in the rest, quite consistently. Virat is considered very highly by everyone because he does what he does best extremely consistently. As of now, Amir is a bowler of great spells but not a great bowler. He needs to be far far more consistent over a much longer period of time to be even considered in the same vein as Wasim, McGrath, Steyn et al.

  • espn11073851 on June 20, 2017, 6:55 GMT

    Very well written article, thumps up to you Nagraj!

  • -switch-hittt- on June 20, 2017, 5:40 GMT

    I think thats the magic of quality left armers .A left arm fast bowler and a legspinner who can turn the ball both ways is a must in the mordern ODI cricket as both these types of bowlers take the pitch out of equation. Even Rahul Dravid in his post match analysis discussed this . Thats why i think we should guve opportunities to Barindar Sran and prep him for that role as well as Chahal or Kuldeep must be brought in .

  • perl57 on June 20, 2017, 3:41 GMT

    1/13 in ICC events. Pakistan played exceptionally well but do not get carried away please. We are no longer "Sachin out all else out". We do not also crib on the marginal call that Aamir got in his favor against Rohit. We just come back in the next ICC event to finish where and what we left off. Beat us consistently and then start talking as though you've got the best of us. Until then, accept India's message - Well played Pakistan. You finally won one match. Kohli and Aamir - 1 all. Next time lets see who will settle the deal.

  • wpbus13 on June 20, 2017, 2:14 GMT

    James Anderson said that some of the Indian batsmen could be worked over much easier in English conditions (something to that extent), while many scoffed it off, I guess he knew what he was talking about. Amir's bowling proved that.

  • cricfan77406353 on June 20, 2017, 0:07 GMT

    WT20 09 .. Amir got dilshan in 1st over to seal the final.... Come CT17 amir again get Ind big 3 to 1st spell to seal the final. he's the man of finals. I can bet had Ind bat 1st even then they were bowled out for 160 odd..

  • bumble23 on June 19, 2017, 19:27 GMT

    virat is yet to sort out his weakness in playing balls around 4th and 5 th stump line. As many have rightly mentioned he does not have the technique to survive in england especially in tests.

  • crkt4evr on June 19, 2017, 19:11 GMT

    feel gutted that kohli couldnt do a better job facing aamir! i hope he is better than this

  • SpartanSword on June 19, 2017, 18:49 GMT

    Kohli was defeated comprehensively in finals. His captaincy, batting were exposed in high pressure situation and he couldn't live up to the expectations. Kohli is a great batter in ODI ( almost second to none), with a great temperament when ball is not swinging. But when bowlers start swinging the ball around, he is clueless. Amir bowled well the other day, but lets be honest, he is not any where near his best. I admire Kohli for his talent, commitment and temperament, but he is not the best batsman in this era. ABD/Smith/Kane/Root are much better than Kohli in ODI/test format if we consider the ability to handle all kinds of bowlers and tracks.

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