An evening at the Eden Gardens that began with rain, ended with Virat Kohli raining boundaries.
His gusty 55 off 37 balls powered India to a six-wicket win over Pakistan on Saturday, keeping alive their chances of making it to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup after opening their campaign with a loss against New Zealand.
History, Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said before the game, might change but the Men in Blue showed once again that when it came to World Cup ties against Pakistan, there was only one winner.
This was India’s 11th win in a World Cup match, the fifth in the T20 format and the remaining in ODIs.
Kohli anchored India and helped his team recover from a top-order collapse, showing lessons from Nagpur have been learnt.
Chasing 119, India lost their top three batsmen early only to see Kohli and Yuvraj Singh put together a 61-run partnership to help the hosts win in 15.5 overs in a game reduced to 18 overs a side because of rain.
Kohli 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 Mohammad 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 Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the finale, was in cruise control as his 37-ball knock was laced by seven boundaries and a six.
Seated in the stands, cricket heroes of yesteryear and Amitabh Bachchan followed former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s words ‘khel hi nahin, dil bhi jitna’, an advice given before the 2004 tour of Pakistan.
But when cricket began, Eden shouted ‘Pakistan harega’ with more gusto than they have all week.
The delayed start took many back to a March evening in 1996 and a World Cup semi-final India would rather forget. This time though, it wasn’t the opposition bowlers who were getting the ball to hiss and snake past batsmen. Ashwin left not just the Pakistan openers but also MS Dhoni befuddled at times.
But it wasn’t just a track where batsmen needed to have ballet dancers’ feet to combat turn. Pacers Ashish Nehra and Mohammad Sami showed that.
In the Indian innings, Dhoni (13 not out) joined the party as he hit a six to level the scores and then hit the winning runs.
Earlier, Ahmed Shehzad 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 Shehzad (25) played cautiously at first and then lost their wickets as they tried to accelerate.
Indian 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.
Skipper 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 of 118.
Fours and sixes rained at Wankhede when England face South Africa on Friday, and at Eden, there were intermittent showers that cut into the overs. The first six of the Pakistan innings came in the 14th over, the first from India came in the 11th. This World T20 will not just be about power hitting.
With inputs from AFP