You could see it coming --- another Virat Kohli masterpiece that was as much about flair as it was of patience. This was one match India couldn’t have lost but only Kohli seemed to be armed with the right skills to keep India on top of Pakistan in ICC tournaments. And unlike in the Asia Cup, this time Kohli completed both his half-century and stayed till the moment Dhoni finished it off in style.
This being Eden Gardens, it was expected Rohit Sharma would give India an assuring start. He warmed up with a boundary off Mohammad Irfan, cutting his short and wide delivery over point and even followed it up with a trademark pull over square-leg for another boundary. Having kept up with the asking rate, the next few balls could have been used to rotate the strike but Sharma fell to his natural instincts by miscuing a lofted drive.
A brief period of mindless batting followed when both Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina gifted their wickets to Mohammad Sami by chopping his short ball onto their stumps. Kohli was not to be lured so easily though. Playing close to his body, he only picked out the worst deliveries. Like his first boundary, off a short and wide Sami delivery, that he rocked back to delicately guide it behind point. Then he picked out another short one from Wahab Riaz, timing his pull through midwicket well enough to send the ball across the boundary.
Important on this Eden pitch was the length offered by the pacers. Both sixes in Pakistan’s innings had come off full-pitched deliveries. The first came in the 14th over, when Pandya pitched it too up for Shoaib Malik to just hit through its line over midwicket. The second came --- almost a carbon copy, only pitched wider --- two balls later. But those were mere aberrations in an otherwise consistent Indian pace bowling. Pakistan pacers failed to show that consistency.
This current batch of India batsmen are good at pulling and hooking, especially Yuvraj. But Pakistan kept feeding him with deliveries that allowed him to free his arms. Driving Sami through the covers gave Yuvraj the confidence to pull Riaz for a massive six. And though he fell to Riaz in the same over, Yuvraj had already provided India that winning momentum.
Rest was done by Kohli. By focusing on ground shots, he cut out all possible risk of getting dismissed. When Shahid Afridi was mixing it up, he focused on nudging the ball to vacant areas for singles and twos. And when Shoaib Malik erred, he pounced on him. In each over after Yuvraj’s dismissal, Kohli made sure he got at least one boundary. All came off the cover drive that Kohli had been practicing so diligently on Saturday. By the time he had cut Mohammad Irfan for a four, the equation was in India’s favour. The winning runs, as usual, came from MS Dhoni’s bat but this was a victory scripted by the grit of Kohli.