Pakistan 118-5 (18 ov)
India 119-4 (15.5 ov)
India win by 6 wickets
KOLKATA // Sometimes it just takes a batsman like Virat Kohli to come in and tell us what is what.
When Pakistan started batting in front of over 60,000 people at Eden Gardens on Saturday night, in a rain-shortened game, the pitch looked and felt like an affront to the format – this, the complaints began, was like Nagpur all over again, where India had crumbled to New Zealand in their World Twenty20 opener earlier this week.
It did turn and excessively, there is no question. But the best batsmen pride themselves on being able to play on any kind of pitch. Joe Root has shown that over the last year. Kohli has been doing it for a while.
Here he arrived, to the kind of roar once reserved for Sachin Tendulkar, with India in trouble. And before anyone knew it, he rendered the surface irrelevant.
An impeccable, languid 55 from just 37 balls, led India to a comfortable six-wicket victory and right back into the tournament.
It was truly a masterful innings, by some distance the best of the evening, built on soft hands and playing as late as possible and, as ever, the most clinical chasing mind in the game. He now averages an astounding 109.16 in successful Twenty20 chases for India.
“He knows and understands now on different wickets how he can score runs,” MS Dhoni said. “We all know once he gets going, once he starts, he always converts it into a big innings.”
There was little that was complicated about it, further proof after Root's innings against South Africa, that there are more shades to Twenty20 batting than we sometimes credit it for.
“At times when there’s a lot of pressure, batsmen go for the big shot,” Dhoni said. “It seems at that point that it is best option. But when you’re under a lot of pressure, the best way to deal with it is to take a single, go to the other end.
“You have your areas and if it is in your area, you have to take the shot. But if not, take a single and go to the other end. If you see Virat’s batting, that is what he really does.”
How Pakistan could do with that kind of simplicity in their batting. India’s spinners bowled well at the start but, as is often the case with Pakistan’s top order, they struggled to build any kind of momentum, not through boundaries and not through their running.
The streak goes on, 11-0 now for India in world cups and world twenty20s. It is not likely to end soon either, with Kohli around.
How the action unfolded at Eden Gardens
Cool-headed Kohli scored an unbeaten half-century as India cruised to a comfortable win in the eastern Indian city on Saturday.
Pre-tournament favourites India put their campaign back on track after suffering a shock loss against New Zealand in the tournament opener, extending their jinx in major tournaments against Pakistan.
Chasing 119 on a track that seemed dual-paced, India lost their top three batsmen early only to see Kohli and Yuvraj Singh put together a 61-run, fourth-wicket partnership to help the hosts canter home in 15.5 overs in a game reduced to 18 overs a side because of rain.
Kohli (55 not out) and Yuvraj combined caution and aggression to blunt the Pakistan bowling attack, which seemed to miss left-arm spinner Imad Wasim, who made way for Mohammed Sami.
Sami did make an impression by sending back Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina in his opening over to be on hat-trick but Pakistan’s four-pronged pace attack had no answers to Kohli’s batting.
Yuvraj (24) fell to Wahab Riaz, but Kohli, who was joined by captain Dhoni for the finale, was in cruise control as his 37-ball knock was laced by seven boundaries and a six.
Dhoni (13 not out) swiftly joined the party as he hit a six to level the scores and then hit the winning runs in front of a raucous crowd.
Earlier, Ahmed Shahzad and Shoaib Malik played useful cameos to guide Pakistan to 118 for five, a score which looked competitive on a tricky surface.
Put in to bat on a moisture-laden pitch that saw heavy rains through the day, Pakistan openers Sharjeel Khan (17) and Shahzad (25) played cautiously at first and then lost their wickets as they tried to accelerate.
India spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina looked dangerous in their opening spells on a track that provided turn and bounce, but the Pakistan batsmen did well to show patience.
Fresh from his match-winning exploits against Bangladesh, captain Shahid Afridi (8) promoted himself to number three but the boom was missing from his shots this time around.
The hard-hitting batsman could only find a single boundary in his scratchy 14-ball stay as he walked back amid loud cheers from the capacity crowd.
Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik then stitched together a crucial 41-run stand that helped Pakistan put up what seemed a respectable score.
Akmal (22), whose 16-ball knock was studded with a boundary and a six, was caught behind off Ravindra Jadeja’s left-arm spin.
Innings top-scorer Malik (26), who hit three boundaries and a six in his 26-run innings, soon joined Akmal in the dug-out after trying to force Ashish Nehra’s pace.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammed Hafeez finished off the innings as Pakistan got seven off the last over.
But Pakistan’s efforts were negated by Kohli who deservedly got the man of the match award.
India next play Bangladesh in Bangalore on Wednesday, while Pakistan head to Mohali to meet New Zealand on Tuesday.
* With agencies
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