Virat Kohli exudes calm, tames Pakistan again in ICC Champions Trophy match
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Virat Kohli exudes calm, tames Pakistan again in ICC Champions Trophy match

Despite controversies during the build up to the match, Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli showed again that he remains a constant when it comes to subduing Pakistan cricket team, with another masterly batting display in the ICC Champions Trophy opener at Edgbaston on Sunday.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 04, 2017 23:55 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Champions Trophy 2017,ICC Champions Trophy,India vs Pakistan
Indian cricket team skipper Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Pakistan cricket team opener Azhar Ali during their ICC Champions Trophy match at Edgbaston on Sunday.(REUTERS)

The feverish build-up to any clash between Indian cricket team and Pakistan cricket team includes heightened anticipation of millions of fans over what could give way when their players come under intense pressure. (Match highlights)

The ICC Champions Trophy build-up has been no different as the tension between the two neighbours had raised the stakes sky-high ahead of Sunday’s Group B encounter at Edgbaston, Birmingham, with bleak weather forecast adding to the mood. (Scorecard)

However, India skipper Virat Kohli again showed he remains a constant when it comes to subduing Pakistan, with another masterly batting display leading the defending champions to victory.

India thrashed Pakistan by 124 runs in the match at Edgbaston on Sunday. Pakistan, set a revised target of 289 in 41 overs following three rain interruptions, finished on 164, with injured last man Wahab Riaz unable to bat as India won with 44 balls to spare. India had previously piled up 319 for three in 48 overs after Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss.

Skipper-coach row

Virat Kohli had been in the spotlight going into the high-voltage clash due to the raging coach-captain saga. There has been concern whether it would distract him and the side. The answer was an emphatic, unbeaten 81 (68 balls – 4x6, 6x3) that took India to 319/3 in the 48-over game, effectively killing Pakistan’s hopes.

Though India are way superior to Pakistan, he had pointed out on Saturday that the teams rarely play each other --- their last bilateral game was in 2013 --- and one had to guard against any surprise.

India need not have worried. After Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan laid the platform with half-centuries and a 136-run partnership, Kohli took charge to demoralise the Pakistan bowlers, after skipper Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and chose to bowl under overcast skies.

Keeping it simple

The beauty of Kohli’s batting is a conventional approach and brilliant pacing of his innings. He eased to his first ODI fifty against Pakistan — he has two ODI centuries — in 58 deliveries, and then shifted gears with a flurry of boundaries to smash 31 runs in the next 10 deliveries.

In the last four years, Kohli has taken charge every time India have faced Pakistan in a multi-team event. At the 2015 World Cup, it was his 107 that steered India to a 76-run win in the opening game at Adelaide.

Dominating Pak bowlers

In February, 2016, in the Asia Cup T20 final, Kohli again tamed Pakistan bowling. Mohammad Amir was on fire, having left India reeling at 8/3. But Kohli’s unbeaten 49 sealed a five-wicket win.

The master chaser was then on display in the 2016 World T20 at Eden Gardens. India were under pressure as hosts. But Virat Kohli was on a different plane, producing a nerveless, unbeaten 55 to guide India to a six-wicket win. He dedicated it to Sachin Tendulkar, his predecessor in that role of Pakistan slayer.

On Sunday, he saw Rohit Sharma run out responding to a sharp single and miss his century. But Kohli and Yuvraj Singh (53) hammered 93 in just 9.4 overs.

It was Kohli’s first match leading India in an ICC event, but there no nerves. He dominated the cover area, there was that whip through midwicket off Wahab Riaz, whose next ball went for a straight six. But for a truncated 48-over game, a century was there for the taking.

Amir and Riaz hobbled off with leg injuries towards the end, but the batsmen’s domination was complete by then.

On match eve, Virat Kohli said he would sound “boring” but the dressing room wasn’t touched by the hype of a Pakistan game. The normal service on Sunday was proof of that.

First Published: Jun 04, 2017 23:53 IST