Updated: Oct 29
Melbourne Madness: Saga of that Haris Rauf over & those two Virat Kohli sixes on back-to-back balls in 19th over against Pakistan at MCG in T20 World Cup 2022. India beat Pakistan by 4 wickets in Super 12s game. Virat Kohli stats vs Pakistan in marquee events.
Imagine if you were in the middle of a packed stadium. Not just any other stadium, but the mother of all cricketing venues — the Melbourne Cricket Ground or as they call it "The G". One million people were hooting, with whistles, trumpets and chanting Indiaaa, India on one side, and Pakistaaaan, Pakistan on the other side. The noise is getting on you; you already have sweaty palms with doubts starting to creep in; every moment is just so grey and black. There are 11 players in the opposition trying hard to get you out on a wicket that is supporting the opposition fast bowlers. You just have one teammate with you at the non-striker’s end, and the rest are outside the boundary ropes. You glance at the scoreboard.
Your team is four wickets down, with a mountain to climb further, with over 10 runs required per over. You don’t know when a bad shot or a good fielding effort might just bring an end, not just to your innings, but to the hopes of those one million supporters in the ground and kazillions outside. Every time you hit the ball in the air, your heart, along with a billion Indians, is racing and pumping. You can hear your heart beating faster and louder than the fans' cheer. Well, that’s just a nanosecond and a sneak peak of thoughts that might have gone gushing in the mind of India’s greatest ever run-chaser, Mr Virat Prem Kohli.
This nanosecond of fantasy may have piqued our interest already; imagine, if we were in the middle of doing what Virat Kohli so effortlessly does, one could be sure we would have required not just nerves, but a heart of steel too. India-Pakistan encounters are always filled with anxiety, nervousness and a war to be fought within before anything else. It tests mental strength, it needs character, it demands warriors who can bail the team out of difficult situations and Virat Kohli has been that warrior for India, not just once, not twice, nor thrice but on almost all occasions he has been thrown into the water to fish out a win for India and boy oh boy! The former captain has done it in some fashion.
From Failures in first three attempts to match-winning performances against Pakistan
Virat Kohli’s first three encounters against Pakistan came in an ICC tournament where he failed to stamp his authority. Virat Kohli scored 16 runs in an ICC Champions Trophy 2009 match where he was dismissed by Shahid Afridi, 18 runs in Asia Cup 2010 match in Dambulla and could only manage 9 runs in ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final in Mohali where he was sent back to the pavilion by Wahab Riaz.
Kohli’s game-changing innings against Pakistan came when he scored a whirlwind 183 runs off just 148 deliveries, where he put up another run-chasing masterclass when India were chasing a mammoth 330 runs in 50 overs in Asia Cup 2012. India had lost a wicket on the second delivery of the innings and when India lost Sachin Tendulkar with India at 133 in the 20th over, then a young Kohli stole the show to remind the world that he is here to stay and for as long as he wanted; he scored 55.45 per cent of the team’s total runs in that game.
Virat Kohli has played 13 ODI innings against Pakistan, scoring 536 runs at an average of 48.73 against our neighbours with two centuries and two fifties, with his highest being 183. Out of these two centuries and two fifties scored against Pakistan, one came on the World Cup stage in 2015, when he smashed Pakistan all over the ground to accumulate 107 runs at the Adelaide oval, scoring 35.67 pc of the team’s total runs. Even in the 2017 Champions Trophy, Kohli smashed a quickfire 68-ball 81* to help India post 319 runs on the board in the group game against Pakistan. followed by another quickfire 65-ball 77 runs in the 2019 World Cup game held at Old Trafford, Manchester.
Virat ‘King’ Kohli – The Undisputed T20I champion against the old enemies
Unlike ODI cricket, it didn’t take much time for Kohli to pack a punch against Pakistan in T20Is, as his first ever game against the men in green came in the 2012 T20 World Cup. Chasing a mediocre target of 129 at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, India lost Gambhir on the second ball of the innings with India down at 1-1. Kohli then took the onus upon himself, scoring 78* off 61 deliveries, and as they say, the rest is history. Virat has played 10 innings against Pakistan in T20I cricket and averages a staggering 81.33 against them. Against teams across the globe where Kohli has played five or more innings, Pakistan's bowlers are Super V’s favourites, as he has a fifty in almost every second innings (5 fifties in 10 innings). In fact, in the last four innings Virat Kohli has played against Pakistan, he has scored a fifty in four of them, with scores of 55*, 57, 35, 60 and 82*.
The memories of the 2016 T20 World Cup are still fresh in fans’ memories, where India were chasing a below par 118 runs in an 18-over rain affected game at India’s most iconic stadium – the Eden Gardens. The ball was seaming and doing the talking for the Pakistan bowlers, and India’s batters were reduced to 3-23 in four overs. Mohammad Amir was bowling with fire and swinging the cherry at over 145+ clicks. While Kohli, on the other hand, calmly soaked in all the pressure like a sponge soaks up water and marched India to victory almost single-handedly with a 55-run innings, scoring 46.22 per cent of the team's total runs.
Even in India’s first ever defeat to Pakistan in a World Cup match, Kohli was India’s only silver lining. He scored a steady 57 off 49 deliveries and the "out of form Kohli" was India’s highest run-scorer in the match, when the so-called cricketing pundits were trying to put a full-stop on Kohli’s T20 career due to his lack of form.
Melbourne Madness – Belief taken to next level
This year, it was no different. People were still questioning Kohli’s place in the eleven leading up to the World Cup. India were again down and out with 33-4, needing more than 10 runs per over and not much batting left in the tank. The same people who were raising a finger on Kohli’s career had the same hands folded in prayer, hoping for Kohli to go big and win it for India. Kohli was batting at 12 off just 21 deliveries, struggling to middle the cricket ball.
Pakistan's fans were rooting "Pakistan Zindabad" slogans, and if a wicket fell in the next three overs, the match was almost in Pakistan’s kitty. Understanding the situation and the importance of Kohli's threat for Pakistan bowlers, both India’s former captain and Hardik Pandya batted out the difficult phase with zero risk. They rolled their wrists every time a faster bowler was bowling to cut down all the chances of hitting the ball in the air. They waited, waited and waited patiently with no four or a six between the 7th and the 10th over for 25 balls! Yes, you heard that right. In the middle overs, India did not hit a six for 25 deliveries in an attempt to steady their sinking ship with 116 runs needed off the final 10 overs.
Kohli and Pandya both restricted their natural stroke-making intentions until left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz was brought on for his third over in the 12th over of the innings. They had to go big. They had to target the weakling, which was clearly Nawaz between Shadab and him, for one big over, before the faster bowlers were brought in again. Hardik started the carnage with a six off the first delivery, giving a teaser of what’s to come further in the over. Kohli didn’t back away either and put on his dancing shoes and ran down the tracks and clobbered Nawaz for another maximum over long on.
Two sixes weren’t enough to calm the fire of the asking rate and Hardik maximised the spinners' over with another six off the last delivery to score 20 off the 12th over and ensured that Mohammad Nawaz was under pressure and Pakistan’s captain could not sneak in another over from his fifth bowler anytime soon. Such a counter attack forced Pakistan to bring their ace pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi into the attack and India didn’t give away anything to the faster bowlers just as per the plan that was looking clear from the outside to just play quietly against the fast bowlers.
After a few quiet overs between the 13th and the 17th, where India scored just 38 runs in 30 deliveries, a little above a run a ball when the asking rate was climbing towards a mammoth 11 runs per over. In a recent interview, Kohli revealed that he was tempted to go for the big shots, but Hardik kept on giving Kohli the belief to take it deep. They believed that they could win it from there as they still had one over left of Nawaz, whom Hardik was confident of hitting three sixes.
India needed 48 runs from 3 overs; What followed was something beyond mundane
Shaheen Afridi, Pakistan's hero of the 2021 T20 World Cup, was brought into the attack and India had to finally take the odd chance or else it would have been too late. Shaheen bowled a waist-high short delivery. Kohli fetched it from outside off and crunched it towards deep mid-wicket for a boundary to bring up his fifty. Virat did not even celebrate, as he knew the bigger mission was still unaccomplished. He then lifted an outside off stump yorker over the covers quite smartly, seeing there was no fielder there. He didn’t try to smash the leather of the cricket ball; he just timed it to perfection to score a boundary.
The last delivery from Shaheen had to go for a boundary, and Kohli, just like a computer, had the count of every fielder stationed across the ground as he backed away deep in his crease for an on-the-body ball and pulled it over short fine for another boundary, scoring 17 runs off Shaheen’s final over.
That Haris Rauf over & those two Virat Kohli sixes
India still needed 31 runs off the final 12, with Haris Rauf left with one over and Nawaz left with one. Pakistan went for the kill with Haris to ensure Nawaz had more than 20 to defend in the final over. Pakistan’s best bowler of the night, Haris Rauf was in no mood to give it away to India as he bowled some serious pacy stuff in the first four balls where both Kohli and Pandya seemed to struggle to time them due to the extra pace and bounce that the "G" pitch offered. Another 28 were needed off eight and if the next two didn’t go for six, forget the fours, India were done and dusted with the pressure of hitting 20+ off the final six deliveries. Rauf bowled a slower length ball, and Kohli backed away from the stumps to play a tennis-like bottom hand shot down the ground for a maximum straight over the bowler's head to hit the giant sightscreen.
An unbelievable shot from an unbelievable player. Rauf was stunned, Pakistan fielders were amused, Pakistan fans were left in agony wondering how Kohli manufactured that shot out of nowhere, and the crowds were cheering Kohli! Kohli! Kohli! No one in the stands or at home dared to leave their seats, even if they needed to pee. They would rather wet their pants than see India lose to their arch rivals.
A melange of pandemonium & calmness in the last over
India needed more; India desperately needed one more, and just as they say, when you put all your sincere efforts and hard work into it, destiny finds a way to give it back to you. That’s what happened. Rauf bowled with full pace on the body, Kohli backed away quite calmly and just instinctively played a flick shot over fine leg for India’s most awaited six of this decade, for sure. When any other batter in the world would have tried to play a slog shot with full strength, Virat Kohli kept his cool, backed his instincts and just timed the ball to perfection and it sailed over the boundary ropes.
With the much-anticipated bowler, Nawaz, ready to bowl at his bowling mark, India needed 16 off the final six. The surprise, the thrill, the adventure wasn’t done yet, as Pakistan decided to convert the spinner Nawaz into a medium-pace counter spinner to not bowl slow in Pandya’s slot. The keeper was kept considerably behind the stumps. On the first delivery, Nawaz bowled a seam up ball. In the slot, Pandya played a big heave, a proper slog, but missed timed it for all money and was caught by Pakistan captain Babar Azam inside the 30-yard circle. For a moment, it seemed as if Pakistan’s ploy might just be working, with 16 still needed out of five. India’s full-time finisher, Dinesh Karthik, was at the crease, and he had been trained for such situations for the past 6 months. DK didn’t connect either on the first delivery, and Kohli was back on strike to face the third delivery of the 20th over.
15 runs were needed off four. Not one, not two, India needed three big hits in the next four deliveries. Nawaz bowled seam up outside off, Kohli could only manage the cue end of the bat and DK ran for his life in an attempt to keep Kohli on strike and made it successfully by putting a full-stretched dive at the non-striker’s end. It was time to bid adieu to all the dramatic series, the political drama and the economic drama around the globe as this match had everything combined in the past 3 hours. A waist-high no-ball which Kohli deposited over deep square leg for a maximum. The tension was mounting, players gathered around the two umpires like nails to a magnet and Marais Erasmus was too experienced an umpire to calm down the situation.
India now needed 6 off 3 and they had a free hit too. Then Nawaz bowled a wide delivery and India now needed 5 off 3 with a free hit to boot. Unfortunately for Pakistan and fortunately for India, the only time the ball hit Kohli’s stump was off that free hit and he was clean bowled, but the ball was travelling towards the ropes after deflecting from the stumps. Kohli and DK promptly ran three and the equation was down to 2 off 2.
Despite the fact that DK was stumped under pressure while trying to hit a nothing shot, India's smartest cricketing brain, Ravichandran Ashwin was on the crease to face the final delivery with India needing two off one. Can it get any bigger or more tense than scoring two runs in one delivery in an India-Pakistan World Cup game in front of 90,000+ screaming fans at the "G"? Even the greatest spinner to ever spin the cricket ball, the magician himself, the late Shane Keith Warne would agree from the heavens that this was the loudest the "G" has ever been! Ashwin quite calmly and intelligently left the ball, which looked from the arm to be going down the leg side, and Rod Tucker stretched both his hands to signal a wide.
A ball which was being left alone was probably cheered as much as when Kohli stroked that six. Then Ashwin, again using his presence of mind, instead of swinging wildly for glory, observed that the mid-on fielder was inside the 30-yard circle, sensed what the bowler was trying to do and quite sensibly played a lofted shot just over the fielder marshalled at mid-on for a single. Ashwin was off celebrating, Kohli was running wild with loud cheers, the fans went berserk, and the whole of India celebrated Diwali in advance. Reporters said that "when the winning run was scored, the noise was heard in the suburbs more than two kilometres away from the stadium."
Virat Kohli’s Best T20I Knock Ever?
Such was the greatness of Kohli’s innings against Pakistan, probably the best T20I innings in the history of the game. Even King Kohli rated this knock higher than the 2016 group stage knock against Australia at Mohali, where he scored a similar 51-ball 82*. But this was something different, under pressure, against the arch rivals, at the biggest cricketing venue in the world and on the biggest stage – the T20 World Cup. And the beast responded in a manner that only he could have done. When the crowds are the loudest and the pressure is the highest, the best will arrive, the strongest will survive and the greatest will thrive.
And India’s one of the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T) – Virat ‘Run Machine’ Kohli not just survived and thrived but brought smiles to more than a billion faces who celebrated Diwali in Virat fashion. The whole of India bowed down to the king, the undisputed king of run chases and burst crackers in joy to celebrate a masterclass, once in a million-year innings.