India vs Pakistan T20 WC: Reliving Virat Kohli's Magical MCG Masterpiece

Virat Kohli helped India beat Pakistan by 4 wickets in the 2022 ICC World Cup.

5 min read
Hindi Female

The popular weekend horse racing was on at the Flemington racecourse, but it was the Melbourne Cricket Ground, some 13.5 kilometres away, that was the place to be on Sunday. It was the T20 World Cup, it was India vs Pakistan, it was 90,000-plus fans cramming the venue, it was theatre and drama, it was chills and spills.

It was also the scene of the most dramatic victory for India, a victory fashioned by the incandescence of an individual who was batting from scratchy memory less than three months back, but one who channelled his inner computer in a run-chase to pull the fat out of the fire.


Virat Kohli was understandably the toast of the nation after producing an innings for the ages. That it came against Pakistan, and that it was fashioned on the grandest stage of all on the most seminal of occasions added greater allure and magic to an unbeaten 82 that was an innings of two parts – a scratchy 12 off 21 balls at the start, a subliminal 70 off 32 thereafter that lifted the pall of gloom which had descended on India’s rambunctious but faithful supporters.

A fascinating contest of ebbs and flows came down to the final over after India staged a heroic recovery from the depths of 31 for four, chasing 160, to bring the equation down to 16 off six deliveries. The mystery and the intrigue was no more than what the 90,293 fans at the ‘G’ deserved, for they had elevated cricket-watching to a grand spectacle.

Long before the first ball was bowled, by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, at 7 pm local time, the ‘G’ was a beehive of noise and colour, of energy and electricity, of anticipation and apprehension. By as early as 4 pm, thousands of fans had milled around the concourse outside the stadium, by the statues of Dennis Lillee and Shane Warne and Betty Cuthbert, working the music, playing the drums, breaking into spontaneous chants of ‘Bharat maata ki jai’ and the ubiquitous bhangra.

India’s supporters comfortably outnumbered their Pakistani counterparts but there was no animosity or even affected ill-will. Groups of fans wearing the colours of their respective countries broke into impromptu Bollywood numbers, including the hit Sholay song ‘Ye dosti…’ as a festive air greeted the biggest congregation of sporting fans in this country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic more than two and a half years back.


The average Indian supporter had several moments of joy in the first half when India’s bowlers kept Pakistan down to 159 for eight, though no one was under any illusion about the magnitude of the task that lay ahead of Rohit Sharma’s men. There was life aplenty in the MCG strip, the big outfield meant runs had to be earned quite literally, not merely through fours and sixes, and Pakistan’s high-class pace attack – Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf – brooked careful watching.

The deafening sound of silence when Naseem evicted KL Rahul in the second over reached a peak as Rohit and Suryakumar Yadav were packed off by Rauf. And when Axar Patel was run out after a mix-up with Kohli, you could have heard a pin drop. One sensed the disappointment, a sense of being let down, within the Indian diaspora, but they put on a brave front and hoped against hope for a turnaround.

Eventually, they found their voice, hesitantly and sporadically at first, and then with increasing conviction as Kohli and Hardik Pandya launched a spectacular counterattack. Over by passing over, with brick after carefully chosen brick, the fifth-wicket pair first brought the match to an even keel and then put India on the ascendancy, Kohli’s sensational assaults on Afridi and Rauf respectively in the 18th and 19th overs setting up a grandstand climax.


Babar had bowled out his pacers before the last over in a desperate but futile bid to break the 113-run fifth-wicket stand, and had no option but to bring on Mohammad Nawaz in the final over, with India needing 16. The left-arm spinner had been entrusted also with the last over in the Asia Cup game between the sides in Dubai in August, when Pandya smashed the winnings runs. This time, he had a few more to play with, 16 to be precise, and the tension in the stands was so palpable you could have cut it with a knife.

This was exactly the finish the fans had envisaged as they moved involuntarily to the edge of their seats. Which way would the pendulum swing? Was 16 a bridge too far?

Oh, was it?! The last over was an event an itself, a mini battle within a large war, a long drawn out battle of thrust and parry, a test of nerves and character as much as of skill. Who would blink first?

Pandya, it turned out, as he was dismissed first ball. 16 off five now.

Enter Dinesh Karthik, the acknowledged finisher, who turned the strike over to Kohli. Sensible, DK. Kohli was striking the ball beautifully, he needed to face as many balls as possible.


Nawaz is a battle-hardened customer but he hadn’t seen anything like this before. His fourth ball was intended to be full at Kohli’s feet, instead it ended up as a full-toss marginally above waist height. Thanks buddy, Kohli seemed to say, as he swung it over square-leg for six. Then came the no-ball call from square-leg umpire Marais Erasmus, and the roar that went up would have brought the roof down had it existed.

A wide and then three byes off the still-free-hit-ball that crashed into Kohli’s stumps and ricocheted to third man. DK on strike, two needed off two now. Walk in the park, right?

Wrong! Walk back to the dugout for Karthik, whose ungainly sweep limped off pad and glove towards Rizwan. DK went walkabouts, Rizwan whipped off the bails, Kohli watched forlorn from the non-striker’s end, R Ashwin came in with two required off one.

Nawaz, crafty Nawaz, thought Ashwin would do what his Tamil Nadu teammate did – move back and try to make room to hit through the offside. So he fired one at where he imagined Ashwin’s leg would be. The man whom former head coach Ravi Shastri hails as the Ashtronaut called Nawaz’s bluff, calmly walked across his stumps and earned a legside wide. One now needed off one.

Babar had a long conference with his bowler, called the field in, left long-off on the fence. Ashwin took his time surveying the battlefield, then gently bunted the ball over mid-off, sprinted the fastest he has in his life and crossed the finish line. An eternity had passed since Pandya’s dismissal off the first ball. But who was keeping track of time on an evening where such mundane matters as the clock held no meaning whatsoever?

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