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Match Analysis

Kohli walks out of trial by spin with the last laugh

With all the pre-match talk about his strike rate and approach against spinners, it felt like he had a point to prove

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Virat Kohli has a wry smile on his face.
In a chase of 201 against Gujarat Titans, he is taking the first strike for Royal Challengers Bengaluru and has been beaten twice in two balls by Azmatullah Omarzai.
The first of those deliveries, short of length outside off, moved away after pitching. Kohli pushed tentatively at it and was beaten on the outside edge. For the next ball, Kohli came down the track but failed to connect once again.
Until then, Kohli had dominated fast bowlers in IPL 2024, striking at 174.50 against them in the powerplay. He had taken down far bigger names in world cricket; he had struck at 260.00 against Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, and 200.00 against Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
Omarzai is not in the same league, and perhaps that's why Kohli had that expression. In a match that was supposed to be a trial by spin - against Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmed and R Sai Kishore - Kohli was struggling against pace itself. While he did launch Sandeep Warrier over mid-on for a one-bounce four in the second over, he had just eight runs in his first nine balls.


Virat Kohli is smiling again. But this time it is a sign of relief as his lofted shot off the back foot against Sai Kishore has just cleared a leaping David Miller at long-off.
Shubman Gill had introduced Sai Kishore into the attack after Faf du Plessis had powered RCB to 37 in three overs. The left-arm spinner got immediate success when he had du Plessis caught at deep midwicket.
By the time Sai Kishore started his next over, Kohli was on 14 off 15. In between, he had chipped Rashid for a straight four, but spin had been his kryptonite in the powerplay. Before this match, he had scored only 38 runs off 37 balls against spin in that phase in IPL 2024.
Sai Kishore's stock ball turns away from Kohli - something that is generally more difficult to score off than the ball turning in. But Kohli hit him for his first six against any kind of spin in the powerplay this season.
Sai Kishore's next delivery was much fuller. Kohli went low and slogged it over deep midwicket, this time clearing the boundary with ease.
Kohli met Noor as well with the same disdain, sweeping the first ball he faced from him wide of short fine leg for a boundary. By then it was clear Kohli was not going to allow the GT spinners to run the show. And to ensure that, the sweep was his go-to shot.
During his unbeaten 70 off 44 balls, Kohli played six sweeps of all types. Never before had he played as many sweeps in a T20 (where ESPNcricinfo has data). He collected 22 runs off those six shots, including two sixes and two fours.


Virat Kohli is thumping his chest.
Of late, he has toned down his celebrations, especially for the fifties. But here, when he reached his half-century, off 32 balls, he celebrated it unabashedly, and even let out a roar.
Gill had continued with spin from both ends till the end of the tenth over, and Kohli had no trouble milking it. Despite Jacks contributing only a run-a-ball 16 till that point, his enterprising knock took RCB to 98 for 1 after ten overs.
When Noor returned for his second spell, Kohli slog-swept him for a four and a six off successive balls. In all, he scored 61 runs off 34 balls against spin - the most he ever has in a T20 - at a strike rate of 179.41.
"All the people who talk about strike rates and me not playing spin well are the ones who love talking about this stuff," Kohli said after the match. "I am not quite sure if they have been in this situation themselves. To sit and speak about the game from a box, I don't think it's the same thing."
After 14 overs, Kohli was on 69. With the target still 53 runs away, it seemed he could even get a hundred. It wasn't to be, though, as Jacks smashed seven sixes and two fours in the next two overs to mop up the remaining runs and get a century of his own.
After the first innings, GT had thought they had got enough runs but Kohli said the pitch had "settled down" in the evening. "I was just having fun out there, hitting boundaries whenever I needed to and just keeping up the required run rate," he said. "Our scoring rate never dropped below ten an over through the innings and that allowed us the platform to do that in the end what Jacksy did."
And it was Jacks going berserk that brought the biggest smile on Kohli's face. In fact a laugh, which he tried to control but failed. Just like the GT spinners had earlier in the day.

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo