With Hardik Pandya being kept in check by the Pakistan pacers during their match-winning stand of 113 off 77 deliveries which had lifted India out of trouble from 31/4, Kohli had to turn the situation around all by himself and he did it by smacking back-to-back sixes off Haris Rauf in the 19th over.
On the fifth ball of the penultimate over, Kohli smashed a slower, short of length ball from Rauf by unleashing an unbelievable straight loft down the ground, over the bowler’s head, which left fans all over the world in frenzy.
He then ended the over by using the pace of the ball to flick off his wrists over fine leg — to make it 16 runs needed off the final over, which was completed on the last ball of the innings.
“Those two shots — because I knew how important those two shots were. Let’s be honest, even if you (looking at Kohli) had missed one, still they were running ahead of us. I was there very closely and I’ve hit a lot of sixes, but those are special, special, and really special in my heart now because of what (it) meant for both of us. We were so pumped. I told him, I’ve played cricket, so much cricket, but I don’t think anyone could’ve played those two shots (sixes off Haris Rauf) except Kohli,” said Pandya to Kohli in a video on the BCCI website after the match ended.
Further elaborating about his crucial partnership with Kohli, Pandya said, “The best part about what I loved about him (doing that) is we struggled, bro. Why it was so special was that we struggled together. This would’ve been not this special if we had just cruised through.
“You would have played exceptional shots, I would have been (in the flow). This feels more special because we knew we’d struggled and talked a lot to each other. Credit to them as well, to how they bowled and were fantastic. This was what we call him, king of chasing and this was just another little feather in his armoury or whatever we call.”
When Pandya, who had earlier picked 3/30 with the ball, came out to bat, India had lost captain Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav and Axar Patel. He and Kohli took some time before the latter drilled a straight drive off Shadab Khan and smacked two sixes over long-on and deep mid-wicket off Mohammad Nawaz, sandwiched between Kohli launching a glorious six over long-on to make it 20 runs off the 12th over, signalling a shift in gears.
Pandya admitted that tension was in the air when he walked out to bat, but at the same time, he was happy to be out in the middle for India. “To be honest, I sensed a lot of pressure in the group. With all due respect, a lot of people in big games (feel the pressure) and (know) how important it is. We all have worked very hard as a collective group, and people are happy for each other.
“But for me, somehow I don’t know, I was very numb today (during match on Sunday). Even when I came on the ground, I was very happy and I was speaking to Rahul (Dravid) sir as well initially, I wouldn’t say he was tense but he told me: ‘you have done a lot of things’, and ‘just be calm’ and all that.
“I had to tell him: ‘sir, please understand I’m happy to be here. Ten months back, I was working in my space and I had no idea and this is where I wanted to be, irrelevant of what happens in the result. Just happy to be here, playing with all the best cricketers in the world, and they are my brothers’.”
Pandya signed off by saying that his focus during his knock of 40 off 37 balls was to make life smooth for Kohli in acing the chase of 160. “The quality of relationship which I have with this group is something I cherish and always will cherish. When I was coming inside (to bat), I would have taken, for example, a bullet for you (Kohli) at that point of time in that situation. I would not have let you get out at that point of time. My goal was simple: whatever I can to make your life easy (do it), because you have done this over the years in crucial games.
“No one is better than handling pressure than you. I did not want both of us to get out, though we had some really good players and still helps us off to win the game, which they eventually did. For me, it was important that you and me stay in the middle; I believed that we could do it. Even when we missed dot balls, we believed that one of us could pull it off.”
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