Match Analysis

Kohli takes up the master's mantle

As "Sachiiiiin" echoed around Eden Gardens, Virat Kohli stepped in to lift India from trouble - with a venerable sidekick for company

India were three down, India were wobbling. Virat Kohli clipped a ball to the left of Mohammad Amir at deep backward square leg and tore down the pitch, head down, legs pumping furiously.
From the eastern galleries of Eden Gardens came a chant, familiar and ghostly.
"Sachiiiiin… Sachin!"
Maybe it was nostalgia, a wish to rekindle the atmosphere of countless cricket matches past, or maybe they just saw Sachin Tendulkar on the big screen, suited and booted. Or maybe, just maybe, they saw something of the old master in the young one, in the undisturbed poise on a difficult pitch, the placement of that deft little flick, and the instant recognition that a second run could be stolen if the first was run quickly.
Amir sprinted around and stopped the ball. Low to the ground after a quick turnaround at the non-striker's end, Kohli looked up, already a couple of steps down the pitch. At the other end, Yuvraj Singh had put his hand up. There would be no second run.
Kohli would get that double as soon as he came on strike again, with a deft flick that took an off-stump ball from Mohammad Sami and placed it between fine leg and deep square leg.
For the second time in just over a fortnight, Pakistan had India three down early in a T20 chase. The last time, there hadn't been enough runs on the board to defend. They hadn't made a big total this time either, but 119 in 18 overs is a stiffer chase than 84 in 20.
Again they were bowling on a testing surface: Mirpur had offered seam movement and carry. Here, in Kolkata, the pitch had sweated under covers as rain thundered down and delayed the start of play by an hour, and the moisture was causing the ball to grip and turn sharply, whether you were a spinner or a seamer bowling cutters.
The secret of limited-overs boundary-hitting is to place it just wide of the fielder in the circle and leave the boundary rider too much work to do. Kohli is utterly brilliant at it
Again, Pakistan had run into Kohli and Yuvraj. A limited-overs great and his ageing, declining, but still-fighting sidekick.
In Mirpur, Yuvraj had struggled to put bat to ball as Amir and Mohammad Irfan zipped the ball around in the corridor. Here, he defended the second ball he faced without quite moving into - or having the time to move into - the line of the ball. In the next over he faced from Sami, he was late on a pull, and the ball hit the high part of his bat and hung in the air for a long time over the vacant midwicket area. A swifter man than Shahid Afridi may well have covered the distance from mid-on.
In between, Yuvraj had played a cracking shot, seeing a bit of width from Sami and freeing his arms to wallop the ball gloriously through the covers. Like a lot of his recent innings, the old (as in ageing) Yuvraj was coexisting with the old (as in circa 2011) Yuvraj.
At the other end, Kohli was shifting the pressure back onto Pakistan in a manner fans have come to expect, leaving them with the curious sensation of marveling at an utterly mundane, everyday thing. Kohli has shots all around the ground, having completed the circle by mastering the sector behind the wicket on the off side over the last few months. The first ball he faced from Sami was shortish and rising steeply, and he was in midair when he met it with an open bat face to steer it between backward point and short third man.
That shot, Kohli's first boundary, moved him from 3 to 7. From that point, he scored off all but one of the next 10 balls he faced. There were the two flicks, described earlier, off Sami. Most other batsmen would have played those balls straight or into the covers.
There was a ball from Afridi that he went back to, shaping to force through the off side; it skidded on straight, cramping him for room, and Kohli used his hands and wrists to manufacture a sliced punch to deep point. Most other batsmen would have blocked that ball back to the bowler.
There was only one marginally bad ball in that 10-ball sequence, a short ball from Wahab Riaz. But it was angling away from Kohli, and he had to fetch the pull from outside off stump. No problem. Four runs.
Yuvraj came on strike again in that over, and was immediately beaten outside his off stump, late on the ball while trying to steer it behind point. Wahab dug one in short a couple of balls later, and Yuvraj pulled it down to long-on. In his prime, Yuvraj would have met that ball a touch earlier, with his body a little further into the stroke, and hit it through midwicket.
But just when you were ruminating over that thought, Yuvraj turned the clock back one more time: a similar delivery in Wahab's next over, swatted imperiously over the midwicket boundary. And then he pulled a long-hop straight to deep midwicket. By then, he had done what he had needed to do.
In between, Kohli had played the two most dismissive shots of his innings, telling Pakistan it was all over. Shoaib Malik began the 11th over from around the wicket, and Kohli saw one on just the right length to go down on one knee and slog-sweep, ignoring the presence of deep backward square leg and clearing him easily. Then Malik moved over the wicket; he floated one up outside off and Kohli swiped it away, all along the ground, all wrist and bottom hand, leaving short midwicket motionless.
It is the secret of limited-overs boundary-hitting - hit it just wide of the fielder in the circle, hit it hard enough to rule out the diving stop, and leave the boundary rider too much work to do. Kohli is utterly brilliant at it. As the target neared, Kohli did this three times with the man at short extra cover, twice off Afridi and once off Amir, beating the fielder twice to his left and once to his right.
The two cover drives off Afridi were played with a bottom-hand whip that is Kohli's and no one else's. The one off Amir was more of a punch, with the full face showing and the left elbow high. Eden Gardens did not break into the Sachin chant, but somewhere in the posh seats the master would have nodded approvingly.

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo