T20 World Cup: Virat Kohli's 'best innings for India' seals dramatic win over Pakistan

Star batsman and Hardik Pandya help secure last-ball win with century stand in Melbourne on Sunday

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There were 90,293 people in attendance at the MCG. Millions more were watching on via the TV. And no-one, not one person, had ever seen anything like this.

Sure, Virat Kohli was immense. Nothing new there. Haris Rauf was rapid. The crowd was a riot of colour and noise. Tell us something we don’t know.

But three byes off a stump? With the biggest game in the world on the line? Nobody could believe what they were seeing.

The bare facts are, India won their T20 World Cup match by four wickets off the final delivery. In one of the most remarkable games of cricket ever played. Can these two play every week? Please, make it happen.

Ravichandran Ashwin chipped the winning runs over mid-off, while the real hero admired his work from the non-striker’s end. Kohli was 82 not out at that point, having chaperoned his side from the brink of defeat all the way to the most stunning victory.

His strokeplay was one thing. With eight balls left, India needed 28. At that point, Kohli played one of history’s greatest shots, somehow lofting a back-of-a-length rocket from Rauf back over his head for six.

The following delivery was more conventional, but worth the same on the scoreboard. It left India needing a more manageable 16. Still no gimme, but with Kohli there, possible.

Mohammed Nawaz’s final over of left-arm spin could not be held back any longer. It was Pakistan’s only remaining option.

And he started well enough, too, having Hardik Pandya, with whom Kohli had shared a 113-run partnership, caught at cover. Dinesh Karthik arrived, took a single, and it was at that point that Kohli’s force of personality took over.

Faced with the king, Nawaz disintegrated. He lobbed up a waist-high full-toss, which Kohli muscled over the rope for six.

It was a no-ball, meaning the next ball was a free-hit. At which point, the world really did go mad. The next delivery was a wide, so the free-hit remained.

Then Nawaz, finally, found his range. He beat Kohli, bowled him – and the ball ran away for three.

Off the next delivery, Karthik was stumped. India still required two. Nawaz had a shot at redemption – only to fire the next delivery past Ashwin down the leg-side.

With one needed, Ashwin did what was needed. The MCG scarcely had breath left to celebrate.

Kohli even did a good line in analysis immediately after. “It's a surreal atmosphere,” he said after receiving his player of the match award. “I honestly have no words. I have no idea how that happened.”

Which is about the long and the short of it.

What had happened, in simple terms, was that Pakistan made 159-8 in a seesawing innings. It included fifties for both Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed, and three wickets each for Pandya and Arshdeep Singh.

Run scoring through was tricky on a fast pitch which favoured the quicks. Only Iftikhar enjoyed a brief spell of freedom, when he hit four sixes in the space of six deliveries from Ashwin and Axar Patel.

It was an object lesson for the Indian batters. They absorbed it cannily, saving their harshest treatment for the spin of Nawaz, while – until the final deliveries of Rauf – taking their medicine against the quicks.

With 2-36, Rauf really did not deserve to be on the losing team. Up until the final two deliveries he sent down, it seemed certain he would not be.

And then Kohli – and fate - took over. His captain, Rohit Sharma, could think of no higher tribute to what he had just witnessed. “It has to go off as not one of his best, but the best innings he has played for India,” Sharma said.

Updated: October 23, 2022, 12:43 PM