India were once again thankful to Virat Kohli as he steered them to victory over Pakistan in the World Twenty20. Virat Kohli produced a fine display of limited-overs batting to guide India to a six-wicket victory over arch-rivals Pakistan and keep the hosts’ hopes of reaching the World Twenty20 semi-finals alive. The contest between the two historic foes had been the subject of much controversy in the lead-up to the tournament, with the game moved from Dharamsala to Kolkata on security grounds.
But those concerns were put to bed as the in-form Kohli took centre stage on Saturday in a tight contest in front of a raucous crowd at Eden Gardens, meaning India bounced back from an opening loss to New Zealand. Having been put into bat in a match reduced to 18 overs a side due to rain, Pakistan laboured on a pitch that produced startling amounts of turn and bounce for the spinners, finishing on 118-5. Two wickets in as many balls from Mohammad Sami (2-17) left India on 23-3, but Kohli delivered a superb showing of control and timing – hitting seven fours and a six to ensure a first win over Pakistan at Eden Gardens.
The opening overs proved extremely hard work for Pakistan on a difficult surface and they appeared in a poor position when Hardik Pandya – who had earlier left the field following a blow to the head suffered when making a diving catch to dismiss Sharjeel Khan (17) – removed Shahid Afridi (8). That left Pakistan on 60-3 with six overs left and, although a stand of 41 between Umar Akmal (22) and Shoaib Malik (26) gave them something to defend, they will have been disappointed not to make the total more imposing in the final overs.
Yet for all Pakistan’s struggles with the bat, the crowd was left silent after Sami dismissed Shikhar Dhawan (6) and Suresh Raina (0) in almost identical fashion, both going cheaply by chopping on to the stumps. However, Kohli again proved the talisman for India, needing just 37 balls to strike his fifth T20 fifty in nine innings, with Yuvraj Singh proving a more than capable partner as they combined for 61 runs. Yuvraj had departed by the time Kohli brought up his half-century with a driven single to long off, and there proved to be no way back for Pakistan, whose wait for a first win over India in an ICC tournament goes on after captain MS Dhoni (13 not out) hit the winning runs.