After putting out a chasing masterclass by slamming an unbeaten 82 off just 52 balls and powering India to an incredible four-wicket victory over Pakistan in their thrilling first Group 2 match in Super 12 of Men's T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli admitted that Sunday's knock had surpassed his unbeaten 82 against Australia in Mohali, 2016 for his best innings in T20I cricket citing the magnitude of the match.
Co-incidentally, in both matches, India were chasing 160, with Kohli leading the side to victories on both occasions in nail-biting chases. Kohli and Hardik Pandya (40) shared a match-winning stand of 113 off 77 deliveries, lifting India from 31/4 to chasing 160 on the last ball to get their campaign in the ongoing tournament off to a winning start in front of 90, 293 fans.
"Till today I have always said Mohali was my best innings, against Australia: I got 82 off 52 (51 balls). Today I got 82 off 53. So they are exactly the same innings, but I think today I will count this one higher because of the magnitude of the game and what the situation was. You guys have supported me, shown me so much love and support for all these months that I was kind of struggling, you guys kept backing me. And I am very grateful for your support. Thank you," said Kohli in the post-match presentation ceremony.
Kohli also credited Pandya for pushing him to take India over the line in a chase where at one point all felt lost. "Well, it's a surreal atmosphere. I honestly have no words. I have no idea how that happened. It seemed impossible but then Hardik kept pushing me in that partnership and we just went deep. It just happened. Hardik kept telling me: 'just believe, believe we can do it, stay till the end'. Honestly, I'm lost for words."
As India scored 55 runs in 11-15 overs, Pakistan brought back Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah, who gave away just six runs each in 16th and 17th overs respectively. With 48 needed off the last three overs, Kohli brought up his fifty by fetching a short ball from outside the off-stump to pull Shaheen Shah Afridi through mid-wicket for four and ended the over with another four swivel-pulled over short fine leg.
"Well, I think when Shaheen bowled from the Pavilion end, I told Hardik we have to take him down. And then the conversation was simple. He said Nawaz has to bowl one over. So I told him if I can take Haris down then they will panic because he was their prime bowler. So I was kind of pumping myself up to hit two sixes when we needed 28 off eight and that became 16 off six (in the final over). I'm kind of lost for words," stated Kohli.
Kohli then smacked back-to-back sixes off Rauf in the 19th over - a straight loft down the ground was followed by using the pace of the ball to flick off wrists over fine leg - to make it 16 runs needed off the final over.
"It's just instinctively I saw the ball and I told myself just stay still. The one at long-on was unexpected. It was a back-of-a-length slower ball. And the next one, I just swung my bat through the line of the ball and it flew over fine leg. Now standing here, I just feel like it was meant to be. It's a very, very special moment," added the right-hander.
Mohammad Nawaz dealt a huge blow on the first ball of the final over when Pandya miscued the slog and thick edge went to cover point. On the fourth ball, Kohli smacked a waist-high full toss high over deep square leg fence for six, which was on a no-ball.
After Nawaz conceded a wide, Kohli and Dinesh Karthik ran three byes on the free-hit delivery before the latter was stumped on the fifth ball. Nawaz conceded a wide yet again and Ashwin finished off the chase with a loft over mid-off to win a thriller for India, with Kohli smiling with his arms aloft and soaking in the applause from a packed MCG.