Chase thriller written and directed by Virat Kohli

In the end, did a tear slip out of Virat Kohli’s eyes after his most wondrous chase under pressure, on and off the field?

He was down on his knee, punching the ground twice, as all the bottled-up emotions poured out of him. In an already astonishing career, this chase against Pakistan in World T20 might just take the cake. It’s a format that doesn’t come naturally to him, he had taken a break as he struggled to come to terms with what he perceived as unjust treatment after his captaincy was taken away – “Only MS Dhoni called me,” he would say – and he needed that break to rediscover his love for the game.

“I think it was meant to be. I would rate this higher (than Mohali chase against Pakistan),” he would say at the end. “You guys supported me all this while when things weren’t going well for me, thank you,” he would thank the crowd.

It was a textbook chase. Hardik Pandya wasn’t allowed to flow by the Pakistan pacers and at one stage in the chase, with run-rate over 10, Kohli had to do it all on his own. The gladiator who loves his audience showing the world who is the boss.

Here are some of the stuff that was stacked against him. In four overs after power play, India had eked out just 14 runs. Worse, at the timeout after the 10th over, the physio was out, massaging behind the knee area of Pandya. The all-rounder felt a niggle even at the nets on match eve. Pressing question right now was: Where were the runs going to come? Who are they going to target?

There was another question hovering in the air: Who will go for it? A younger Pandya would have gone with the senior Kohli hanging around. But now the matured IPL captain Pandya likes to stay till the end, drag the game, see the younger players throw the bat around, while he deals with the finish.

Would Kohli be the person to start the attack considering he has lesser firepower of the two and India might well need Hardik for a more explosive finish later? A over ticked by. Pacers will come back for Pakistan in the end, something had to be done in the here and now.

Off the first ball of the 12th, Pandya answered that query with a walloping six over long-on off Mohammad Nawaz, the left-arm spinner. Ok, so is it going to be Hardik who is going to go for it?

But Kohli came charging out to strike a six off its own. Then Pandya did it one more time. Three sixes in that over. So, perhaps both are beginning to go or rather, they chose the bowler to go after: Nawaz.

It turned out it was the bowler they were after as they once again chose to wait out and look for the bad ball. Shadab Khan offered one in the 14th but not many came from the pacers from then on.

Kohli dashed out to glance a Naseem Shah ball to fine-leg boundary. Just like he had done against Shaheen Afridi earlier. Make a charge, see if the bowlers err. It happened twice, but otherwise the pacers had it in control.

Meanwhile, Pandya too was waiting, getting into position and waiting for any errors. Haris Rauf didn’t commit any. Neither did Naseem in the 17th over, giving away just 6 runs. The batsman holding shape, waiting but nothing came their way.

With 48 needed off 18 balls, they had to go for it, surely? Kohli pulled the first ball from Shaheen- a short one- to midwicket boundary.

Two balls later, Kohli would do a Pant: A one-handed slice over extra cover for a four. Two in the over. Plenty more needed, though. Kohli pushes to long-on, wants the second but Hardik isn’t in mood, perhaps its that knee niggle. Kohli shrugs.

Like Rauf, Shaheen hit the hard length and Pandya is unable to get it away.

It seems Kohli would have to do it on his own, almost. Pandya perhaps would wait for the left-arm spinner Nawaz’s last over or wait to see if the pacers err.

Kohli pulled the last ball of the 18th over from Afridi to fine-leg boundary. 17 runs came that over, Kohli doing the bulk of scoring.

Rauf started the over with a ball in the slot that Pandya loves, but he could only swing it straight to deep midwicket fielder for a single.
Another hard length short ball arrived from Rauf – short and climbing outside off- and Pandya goes for his slashing cut but the ball rises more and flies past the bat. Another hard length again, as Rauf keeps hitting the deck, and Hardik is unable to get.

All those three balls to Hardik on Indian pitches would have disappeared for sixes. Not here, though.

It needed the skills of Kohli to do it here at MCG. The next ball of the same 19th over, a hard length one that kicked up just outside off, was beautifully punched on the up, almost flat batted over long-off for a six over long-off. At the dugout, Rohit was up on his legs to clap in admiration.

The last ball of that 19th over was invariably fuller – a tribute to the shot that preceded it as Rauf gave up the hard length- and Kohli used the pace to play a wondrous short-arm flick over fine leg.

“This boy is a genius, he might not win it but he is a genius,” Ian Smith would scream on air.

It came to the final over. Nawaz with the ball and India seemed to have the right man on strike, Pandya. It’s one thing that he couldn’t do it against the pacers’ hard length but he has just hit 2 sixes off Nawaz. Surely, he can swing one over long-on.

He went for it first ball, with 16 runs needed. But he went too far across, more cow corner than the straighter long-on. That one prized item he carries – the shape – he lost it. And unsurprisingly top edged.

When Dinesh Karthik took just a single, it was four balls to go and it was all back to Kohli. Rizwan been standing deeper; Pakistan don’t want any costly outer edges or byes.

Nawaz slipped in a full toss and Kohli walloped it for a six over deep square-leg and wants a no-ball. He signals frantically. Radio silence from umpires. Suddenly, Marias Erasmus says it’s a no ball as it was above waist-high. Pakistan aren’t convinced. The replays aren’t convincing either way but it’s been done.

Next ball was pure madness that makes Rohit Sharma say “Kya huh?!” at the dug out. A wide had made it still a free-hit ball and full yorker length crashed into the stumps. Kohli ran three as the ball goes to third man and Pakistan protest again that it should be a dead ball as it hit the stumps. No, says the umpires. Three it is, and it came down to 2 from 2.

But Kohli would be stranded for the last ball as Karthik failed to connect with a sweep – his shot and even the ball was at an ideal spot but it rolled off the pad and bat to Rizwan, who was now standing up to the stumps, to break the stumps.

He had done everything he could to drag the ball to the last ball but it was now beyond him now. All he could do was stand at the non-striker’s end and watch R Ashwin.

Did he tell Ashwin, let’s go for a super over or did he say go for the win? He said something but it couldn’t be deciphered.

But under pressure, Nawaz slipped in a wide down the leg side. Next ball, the last ball of the game, Ashwin calmly scooped it over mid-off to ensure Virat Kohli got the richly deserved moment for all the craft, skill, hard work – and that passion to win. He would slide down the ground, punch it away like a man possessed. A man possessed of immense talent and passion, and a seemingly never-ending drive to win.

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