1020 days and 83 international matches later King Kohli brought a smile to his and everyone’s face with his 71st century in the T20I of the Asia Cup against Afghanistan. Even he didn’t imagine that the draught would be broken in this format. With both teams out of the Final, the match started with zero energy. India rested skipper Rohit Sharma, Hardik Pandya, and Yuzvendra Chahal. Surprisingly, Afghanistan played an unchanged side within 24 hours after their heartbreak against Pakistan.
KL Rahul and Kohli started India’s inning slowly. It was Rahul who showed some positive intent after two overs. Kohli took 10 balls to play his first clean shot. He took apart Mujeeb in the final over of the powerplay and then never looked back. India’s openers put the first 100-run opening stand of the Asia Cup. Both Rahul and Kohli pushed each other to register individual fifties. After a classy six, Rahul (62 off 41) fell to Fareed Ahmed while trying to force the ball for another six. Suryakumar Yadav started his inning with a six but got a thick edge on the next to get clean bowled in the same over.
With Jadeja out of the tournament, India sent Rishabh Pant to the number four position as their only left-hander at the top. But what we saw was an unleashed Kohli with relentless, calm, and pressure-free batting. Pant struggled a lot at one end. His 20 runs off 16 balls showed his lost touch. On the other end, Kohli danced like a swan to accelerate the score. He broke the Afghani pace attack and shattered Rashid Khan’s spin with huge hits. Kohli reached his 71st hundred with the most Kohlisque flat six and showed off his greatness in the final over with two sixes and a classy extra-cover drive. He contributed 67 of his 87 runs stand with Pant. Kohli registered the highest T20I score by an Indian after remaining unbeaten.
After the Kohli storm, Afghanistan got caught in the Bhuvi storm. As soon as the pitch started assisting swing in the second innings, Bhuvi shattered the depleted Afghanistan team. Bhuvneshwar took 5 wickets for just 4 runs – the third-best T20I figures for an Indian bowler. Rahul used Bhuvi in the first overs that saw him bowling 20 dot balls. Afghanistan showed some resilience after getting reduced to 21 for the loss of 6 wickets. Ibrahim Zadran scored an unbeaten 64 to delay the outcome. India won by 101 runs.
With T20 World Cup on the line and BCCI yet to finalize the squad, this match shouldn’t be seen as the benchmark. Why? First of all, it was against that Afghanistan side which finished their game 20 hours before. Second, there was no pressure to qualify for the final. The only positive from the game was Virat Kohli’s consistency throughout the Asia Cup and Arshdeep’s bowling. Though Bhuvi bowled 20 dot balls and took 5 wickets, he conceded 19 and 14 runs in the 19th overs of the Pakistan and Sri Lanka games respectively. Rahul’s magic didn’t mesmerize throughout the first four games. And even after taking 6 wickets for 21, Indian bowlers couldn’t manage to bowl out Afghanistan. With Bumrah and Harshal Patel coming back hopefully, the situation will be sorted for India.
For Afghanistan, all they have to work on closing the games and take the right decisions. They came close to winning against Pakistan but couldn’t. They won the toss and could have chosen to bat first to keep the players energetic by avoiding back-to-back fielding.
India will be heading to play the T20I series against Australia and South Africa at home. Though the World Cup is in Australia and the pitches will be different, hopefully, the management figures out the best combination to play the World Cup.
Mohammad Nabi: The Loosing Captain
It was really tough to play Pakistan the other night, a tight game, and straightaway the next game is against India, which was totally tough. We weren't mentally prepared for that game. We tried our best to prepare but the boys were not ready mentally. Today we tried our best, with the way KL Rahul and Kohli started, we dropped catches also and in the batting, we didn't expect that much swing. As a captain the way we started the tournament was with high morale, we didn't finish well but we played well.
KL Rahul: The Winning Captain
Coming back after a big injury and surgery, I have realized playing the last few games it is not as easy as you think. I was eager to come and play but obviously finding the same touch or same rhythm wasn't coming easily as I thought it would. It is a learning for me as a player, happy I could spend some time in the middle and I started feeling good. In this format when you hit the first six off the middle gives you confidence, I think in the Hong Kong game I got a free hit and though I didn't time it as well as I could, I still hit the ball out of the ground and it felt good. Coming into the Pakistan game I felt a little better and getting a few shots away gave me confidence, I am slowly getting into a rhythm. The result has been disappointing. Ideally, we would have wanted to play the final and challenge ourselves. We came into this tournament wanting to play the final and win the big tournaments but it didn't go our way, we take the positives. We have been challenged and it is time to sit back and reflect. Losing is not great but sometimes you have to take it as part of the journey, our vision is the World Cup and hopefully, the learnings will help us for the World Cup.
Virat Kohli: Man of the Match
Firstly, I am grateful for how the day went today. Time away from the game gave me a good chance to sit back and observe a lot of things about myself. I mentioned one special person – Anushka – who stood by me through these tough times and I mentioned her as she has seen the absolute raw side of me throughout all these months. She was the one putting things in perspective for me, kept giving me the right kind of guidance, and vision moving forward and I came back into the system as a relaxed person. It was just about enjoying the game, understanding the game, and what God blessed you with. Today was the build-up of the last few games, I batted out of my skin, to be honest, and I surprised myself. What surprised me was my 60s became failures; quite shocking for me, batting pretty well and contributing but doesn't seem to be enough. I can't really pinpoint anything to anyone as I said God has blessed me with good things in the past and that's why I am in this position where these things can be spoken about.
I have absolutely no shame in admitting that God is blessing us all with everything in our destiny, we just have to work hard. So I went back to the drawing board and came back fresh and excited. The team environment has had great communication with me, kept me relaxed, and kept my perspective right. When I came back there was not much information coming my way, they just said bat and it was a matter of getting into the space of enjoyment. I have had many suggestions, and a lot of advice has come my way; people were telling me I was doing this wrong, that wrong, I picked out all the videos from the best time I had; same initial movement, same approach towards the ball and it was just what was happening inside my head I wasn't able to explain it to anyone. At the end of the day, you know as an individual where you stand, people will have their opinions but they cannot feel what you are feeling. I am very grateful for that time and needed it to change my perspective.
Twitter exploded after Virat Kohli scored a century. Here are some tweets:
@imVkohli dancing again! What a lovely sight
— AB de Villiers (@ABdeVilliers17) September 8, 2022
You can delay class all you want to, don't even think of denying it.
That ton? Worth it's weight in gold. That smile? Priceless. Shine on, champ. @imVkohli
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) September 8, 2022
It’s been a while, but happy to see Virat Kohli back in international century scoring mode. First T20i hundred, and hopefully a precursor to bigger tasks ahead.
— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) September 8, 2022
The great is back @imVkohli
— Hassan Ali 🇵🇰 (@RealHa55an) September 8, 2022
— Rumman Raees (@rummanraees15) September 8, 2022
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