India v Pakistan, World T20 2016, Group 2, Kolkata March 19, 2016

Kohli special steers India home on a turner


India 119 for 4 (Kohli 55*) beat Pakistan 118 for 5 (Malik 26) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Dravid: Kohli the difference between the two teams

There was rain, but the Eden Gardens was not submerged. There was a pitch that made spinners seem like grenade launchers. There were 61337 people including certifiable legends of the game from Sachin Tendulkar to Imran Khan. All of it added to the spectacle of India-Pakistan cricket, but Virat Kohli rose one step above with an innings of gumption and class.

India needed to win tonight to stay in control of their fate at the World T20. A few tactical errors left them with a competitive 119 to chase. When the ball grips into the deck, slows down and simultaneously turns, a batsman's judgment becomes of great importance. Hitting on the up carries risk. Playing too far away carries risk. Finding a run a ball can be troublesome. Kohli found 55 of them in only 37 balls to beat Pakistan for an 11th time in a World Cup match.

Kohli's thirst to compete was apparent when he said a cricketer needs tough pitches. He had the 18 overs that Pakistan had to bat to assess the one in Kolkata. There were a few shots that he needed to avoid, and a few things he needed to exploit - like his speed between the wickets. He fed his innings with 19 singles and a two, playing his shots as late as he could, and every time he played one, it was with the intent to get some runs. Kohli allowed only nine dots in his innings. Perhaps Pakistan made the task slightly easier by not bowling out Mohammad Amir.

The loss to New Zealand had "hurt" Kohli. "We don't perform like that at home," he said in the post-match presentation. The shots that he hit tonight as he neared his half-century - two scorching cover drives when the bat barely strayed away from his body - typified exactly how one should play on such pitches. The longer he was at the crease, the weaker Pakistan became and the night eventually ended with the man who Kohli bowed to upon reaching his fifty - Tendulkar - waving the India flag aloft.

It wasn't a flawless day for the hosts though. They had a chance to be chasing far less. India did not bowl R Ashwin out on a surface made for him and their fast bowlers bowled length balls and full tosses in the death when the offcutter seemed the logical choice. Pakistan's lower order, marshaled by Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal, swung into the leg side with glee and ransacked 51 runs off the last five overs.

Even after such a rich return in the death, Pakistan's total remained in the competitive range. And that was because of the control India had in the early going.

Bats these days have a lot of wood in their middle. The ball and the Kolkata pitch colluded never to find it. The leading edge was allowed a peek. The outside edge tried to pipe up, but it was always beaten. On-and-off rain since 5 pm had shortened the game to 18-overs a side, but the pitch was dry enough that all anyone had to do was roll their fingers over the ball to be menacing. Ashwin turned it square in the second over. Ravindra Jadeja could not bowl his wicket-to-wicket line because he could not believe how much the ball was deviating.

Considering that, it seemed Pakistan had stabbed themselves by dropping a spinner, and a handy batsman, in Imad Wasim to add Mohammad Sami to their XI. However, Pakistan being Pakistan and Sami being Sami turned a liability into a strength. Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina - two men who seem to struggle badly in a touch situation - chopped onto their stumps and Sami was on the cusp of a hat-trick in every form of cricket. Yuvraj Singh soaked in that pressure and contributed 24 runs to a match-winning 61-run partnership with Kohli.

Pakistan's batsmen, who were heavily maligned leading into the tournament, acquitted themselves quite well when the ball was darting around. Ahmed Shehzad laid a solid foundation with his 25 off 28 balls. They eased past the first 10 overs with only two wickets lost. Ashwin had only one left in his quota and Jadeja had two. Dhoni did not think about Yuvraj at any point in the game, and kept at it with his seamers. Pandya gave away 15 runs in 14th over and Bumrah 13 in the very next.

At that point, it seemed Pakistan had the edge. Then Kohli came out and took it away from them.

Alagappan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  •   Raghu Choluru on March 22, 2016, 13:27 GMT

    Virat Kohli is a chasing man

  • Naresh on March 22, 2016, 6:38 GMT

    INDIA need to find more Kholi type players. He has already proved countless times that he is in the elite league. Others are hovering around the middle tier.He is consistent and that is good. Maybe a player like IYER (from domestic scene) looks like he could fit the consistency bill. We seem to have a lot sitting in the next tier. As far as Dhoni is concerned his STUMPINGS are world class and has been a wonderful servant of Indian cricket.

  •   Anil Kumar on March 21, 2016, 19:39 GMT

    I have never seen so many hatred comments about captain who has been batting and keeping well for years. And after winning a match with 6 wickets and around 3 overs to go. No doubt kohli played well but he got support small support form rohit yuvraj and dhoni. Mind you in a match like this even a score of 10 runs is around 10% of the total chase. Sorry dhoni, what ever you do we Indian are just good enough to find faults with you. In previous match when ashvin bowled all his overs before 12 over. Everyone had problems. If Panda had not gone for runs , no body would have been talking. I feel bad when people comments on the basis of performance after the match. No body new the end result of pandya over till he completed.

  •   Anil Kumar on March 21, 2016, 18:47 GMT

    @sportsfan very easy to find fault with dhoni. Cricket is played in ground not on computer. After the match every one can find reason. How many of us or experts the amount of spin with this pitch. Apart from one game with Srilanka and one with NZ India is playing exceptional cricket in last 3 months all around the globe and all types of pitches. And each member of this team had contributed . if you can recall. There is no point in making changes with a settled unit. Coming to Dhoni's capacity I feel he has brought more success to India then any one in Indian cricket history. Even in last match he fought hard but didn't get support from any batsman .

  • Al on March 21, 2016, 11:58 GMT

    India can not win this World Cup with so many passengers. Dhawan, Raina, and Pandya are not pulling their weight. It's easy to replace Dhawan with Rahane, but what to do about Raina and Pandya? Dhoni needs to find a solution. Keep playing the same 11 at your own peril. Manish Pandey or Yusuf Pathan would have been perfect replacement for Raina, but they are not even in the squad. Bring Shami in place of Pandya, and a batsman in place of Raina.

  • Frost on March 21, 2016, 11:40 GMT

    As an Indian who supports certain Pakistani cricketers, I have to admit that I haven't seen anything from Sharjeel that everyone seems to hype about. Nasir Jamsheed was way better at opening. I think he would complement Ahmed Shehzad more. Also, I'm not sure if Saeed Ajmal is banned or not, but if he isn't, he would be an absolute stunner in India. Wahab can be replaced by Saeed. Just a personal opinion.

  • legstumpgoogly on March 21, 2016, 9:48 GMT

    Kohli is on his way on being the best Indian batsman ever. Can you believe it?

  • Krishen on March 21, 2016, 8:15 GMT

    Based on team potential the top 10 teams for T20WC 2016 are 1.IND 2.SA. 3.NZ 4. ENG 5.AUS. 6.WI. 7.PAK 8. BD 9.SL 10.AFG. But victories are secured by converting potential into performances & by minimising errors. We had already seen upset defeats for IND, ENG & SA by NZ, WI & ENG respectively. There were therefore hints from some that IND would lose & how Kolkata was a favourite venue for PAK. IND showed great resilience and secured comfortable win after a good bowling / fielding performance followed by excellent batting by Kohli & Yuvi. Kohli has huge talent & his measured approach to batting in recent times is a great sign for IND. Kohli needs to learn from SRT's approach to batting in all formats. If Kohli does that he will be much more successful. MSD through his contributions as player & captain has already leap frogged as the best ever captain in all forms of cricket in history of the game. MSD 's approach to captaincy is like DL method & thus difficult for some to comprehend.

  • Somashekhara on March 21, 2016, 7:07 GMT

    Well played India...!!! Again it is one man show of VIrat...!!! but match winning partnership from Yuvraj...!!! Still Yuvraj's best is not come and hope so in future matches...!!! But Dhoni is not flexible in playing XI depending upon pitch, conditions and form of players...!!! Plz be flexible for selcting XI...please bring Rahane, Bhajji and keep out Pandya, Dhawan and even think of Raina out or his batting order may be changed to 5/6 as observed finishing matches comfortably ...!!! and also Jadeja's only good bowling not enough in T20 & batting from to be think it seriously...!!! so considering all above points plaese felxible selecting XI by giving opprtunity to others also...Plz plz plz...!!! India fan...!!! (from Karnataka)...!!!

  • Saad Amjad on March 21, 2016, 1:50 GMT

    kohli is an expert at chasing small totals!