Mon 24,October 2022
Suddenly, Hardik Pandya was yelling from the non-striker's end, a collective hysteria had taken hold of the MCG, the kind of noise that even this famous arena, despite everything it has witnessed before, has not quite heard. Something magical had just happened, something utterly implausible.
Moments before the sudden bedlam, Virat Kohli had glanced up at the scoreboard. The giant screens flashed that eight balls were left in the game: not enough for anyone - this was the game that should have gone on forever - but just enough for another twist, or maybe even two. India were still 28 away and Haris Rauf, within touching distance of rubber-stamping Pakistan's win with a stunning individual performance at his 'other home', on a day that had already seen him hit his first-ball for six and then deliver hostile balls to dismiss Rohit Sharma and Suryakumar Yadav.
Ball 18.5 was a slower one that landed on a good length, just the kind that had proved toughest to put away all through the evening. For a bowler hitting 150 kph as Rauf did, the slower one packs in extra deception. Kohli, standing deep in his crease, backed away a little and bottom-handed it with an almost vertical bat over long-on for six and then walked off towards square even as Pandya moved towards him yelling.
Imagine the situation and then imagine the game awareness. India had gone from needing 60 off 30 to 54 off 24, 48 off 18 and then 28 off 8. With every non-boundary ball in that 19th over, and there were four of them, the game was slipping away. Both of Rauf's final two deliveries had to go for sixes, according to Pandya, to have any kind of a chance in the final over. "Even just one six would have needed us to bat out of our skin in the final over," Pandya would later say.
Now, try to get into the clutter-free Kohli's head. Most hitters would have succumbed to the desperation and swung square and taken a chance with the deep fielder hugging the biggest square boundary, a 50:50 option at best. Not Kohli. Under extreme duress and in an only one way out scenario, he remembered an important post-script in the pre-match data cheat sheet: 'Target the straight boundaries at the MCG, they are shorter'.
The genius gene in Kohli was ticking once more. At this point, Rauf made the mistake of panicking. Never panic around Kohli. He wants you to panic. He smells your panic and runs right into it. Rauf went back to pace but lost direction ever so slightly and Kohli whipped him over fine leg for another six. "Those two sixes were the most beautiful things I've witnessed [in a cricket match]. I usually stay calm in the middle but even I was screaming," the non-striker Pandya would recollect an hour after India clinched victory in the greatest India-Pakistan match at a World Cup.
It is easy to go overboard here, just as it is also easy to become inured by repetition to the pitch of Kohli's chasing brilliance. Sachin Tendulkar termed the 53-ball 82* Kohli's best. Kohli himself placed it above the 51-ball 82* against Australia in Mohali. Captain Rohit Sharma then stretched that narrative further.
"Yeah, I think it has to go [down] as definitely his best for sure, but I think from the situation we were in, and to come out with a victory, I think it has to be one of India's best knocks, not just his best knock. Because until the 13th over we were so behind the game, and the required rate was just climbing up and up," Rohit said.
Today, At 04:30 PM
Wed, OCT 26 2022, At 09:30 PM
Wed, OCT 26 2022, At 01:30 PM
THU, OCT 27 2022, At 08:30 PM
THU, OCT 26 2022, At 12:30 PM
Mon, Oct 24 2022
Bangladesh won by 9 runs
Sun, OCT 23 2022
India won by 4 wkts
SAT, OCT 22 2022
England won by 5 wkts
SAT, OCT 22 2022
New Zealand won by 89 runs