Virat Kohli produced an absolutely dazzling innings to hand India a huge win over rivals Pakistan in a record breaking run chase at Mirpur.
India, who lost to Bangladesh before heading into this match, were under intense pressure to win, in order to have any hopes of reaching the finals of the Asia Cup.
Indian Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, stated that the team always seemed to react much better when put under some pressure. “It’s about how you handle pressure, they will learn from games like these” he said.
Pakistan Captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, won the toss and chose to bat first, due to the lightening fast outfield.
As the players made their way out to the middle, the crowds erupted as the most anticipated match of the Asia Cup was about to get under way.
Openers, Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed, gave Pakistan the upper hand early into the match, as the pair ran hard and used to the quick outfield to their advantage, dispatching any short pitched deliveries to the boundary in a flash.
Hafeez and Jamshed started to trouble the Indian bowlers, which resulted in some pretty poor bowling, much to the frustration of Captain Dhoni.
If Dhoni was frustrated towards the beginning overs of the match, he had no idea what was in store for his team, as the opening pair, started to build a solid partnership.
Dhoni, tried to mix the bowling up, to trouble the batsmen and keep them guessing, however, with the bowling not at its best, Hafeez and Jamshed just gained more confidence.
Soon enough both openers had reached their half centuries, much to the delight of the Pakistan fans.
However, things just got better for the Pakistan fans, as Hafeez and Jamshed continued to attack the Indian bowlers and increase the value of their opening partnership.
With the partnership now nearing the two hundred run mark, Hafeez and Jamshed were within striking distance of their own individual centuries.
Hafeez, was the first to reach his fourth ODI century, while Jamshed followed almost immediately, with his maiden ODI century.
The opening pair were looking unstoppable, until, India finally gained the breakthrough they so desperate needed, dismissing Jamshed, who played a superb innings of 112.
Jamshed and Hafeez had put together an opening partnership of 224, which is now the highest opening stand, and second highest overall partnership for Pakistan in ODIs against India. It is also the highest partnership of the Asia Cup, surpassing Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan’s stand of 223 in 2004.
With Jamshed back in the pavilion, India delivered another huge blow for Pakistan, removing Hafeez just a couple of deliveries later, for a splendidly-played 105 runs.
With both openers dismissed, Umar Akmal and Younis Khan tried to provide as many runs as they could with the few overs they had left.
Akmal, added 27 runs, before he was dismissed, which brought Shahid Afridi to the crease.
Afridi, achieved a great milestone during the match, as he passed his 7000th ODI run. Afridi’s strike-rate of 113.76 is the highest out of all players to reach this landmark.
Afridi, however, did not live up to the expectations of the crowd, as he was dismissed after just scoring nine runs.
Meanwhile, Khan, was becoming a thorn in the side of the Indian bowlers, as he hammered them all over the ground, to bring up a rapid half century.
But, just as he had passed the half century mark, Khan was caught out after trying to go for another big hit.
After Khan, Pakistan lost a few quick wickets, and India should have considered themselves lucky for limiting Pakistan to 329, since they were looking at a higher target earlier in their innings.
India’s Praveen Kumar and Ashok Dinda, picked up two wickets each, while Irfan Pathan and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, chipped in with a wicket each.
Pakistan, looked fairly confident in being able to defend their total, as the Indian openers, Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar, walked out to the crease, and rightfully so, as they delivered a massive blow to the Indian chase, removing Gambhir with the second ball of the match.
With the early loss of Gambhir, Virat Kohli joined Tendulkar at the crease, and the pair started to build up a sensible partnership.
Pakistan, soon started to let their concentration slip, as they gave away free runs to Tendulkar and Kohli, who were both getting settled at the crease, and starting to find their touch.
Tendulkar and Kohli, worked in tandem, and slowly wore down the Pakistan bowlers and fielders, which paid off, as the number of fielding errors started to increase, much to the annoyance of Captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
Kohli blasted his way to his half century, while Tendulkar, soon brought up his own half century, silencing critics about his form.
With the partnership past 100 runs and threatening to get out of hand, Captain ul-Haq turned to his best bowler, Saeed Ajmal, who provided the major breakthrough, claiming the prize wicket of Tendulkar on 52, thus ending the highly valuable 133 run partnership he and Kohli had put together.
Kohli, meanwhile, did not let the wicket of Tendulkar distract his concentration, as he continued to run hard and hit boundaries, with the help of Rohit Sharma.
Sharma and Kohli soon started to build another partnership and things started to look ominous for Pakistan.
Captain ul-Haq tried to use the pace-spin combination to fool the batsmen, but, they were having none of it, as the pair continued to work effectively and slowly bring down the required run-rate.
Kohli, reached his 11th ODI century soon enough, but, was far from finished with the Pakistan bowlers.
Kohli, in his past four ODIs, has now scored three centuries, along with a half century, showing that he is the future of Indian cricket.
With Kohli continuing to give the Pakistan bowlers a hard time, Sharma soon started to edge his way closer to a half century, and was not to be denied, as he continued to push hard for the runs and hit some amazing boundaries.
With the pair sailing along and both looking in blazing form, the Pakistan bowlers tried to do everything in their power to cool them off, but, with some intelligent batting and costly misfields, the chance of reaching the target of 330 became possible.
Kohli, soon brought up his 150th run, much to the appreciation of the crowd and his teammates.
But, just as Kohli was dominating at one end, Sharma, who was starting to step his batting up to the next level, miscued a shot and was caught by Afridi, but, there was no major celebration by the Pakistan team because they knew that the damage had been done.
The pair had put together a huge partnership of 172, which proved to be the turning point of the match. It is also the sixth-highest overall partnership for India against Pakistan, and the second-highest for the third-wicket partnership against Pakistan, only trailing behind the 201 partnership between Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag at Kochi in 2005.
With the immense partnership broken, Kohli added a few more runs, before he top-edged a short pitched delivery and was caught, bringing an end to his best ODI innings of 183.
Kohli, was awarded the Man of the Match award, for his highest ODI score, and for leading India to an outstanding victory. “I still can’t believe what happened out there honestly. I’m really satisfied. We were waiting for these 3-4 overs of 15-20 runs. I’m a fan of Rohit Sharma, love watching him bat. I would rate this knock and Hobart equally. To be able to chase 330 against this bowling is satisfying” he said.
Kohli’s innings of 183 is the highest individual score against Pakistan in ODIs, surpassing the previous record, which belonged to Brian Lara’s 156 in 2005. Kohli also has the third-highest average, currently at 50.56, for batsmen who have scored more than 3000 ODI runs, and only trails Australian great Michael Bevan and Indian Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But, Kohli now only trails behind Tendulkar, for the most number of centuries in chases, with seven, while Tendulkar has 17.
Even with the loss of Kohli, who had flourished under the pressure of a record breaking run chase, India made quick work of the remaining runs needed for victory, with Dhoni, himself, putting an end to the match with a blistering boundary.
Umar Gul took two wickets for Pakistan, while Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal, picked up one each. Every Pakistan bowler, except Ajmal and Hafeez, went at over six runs an over.
With this win, India successfully achieved their highest run chase in ODIs, surpassing their previous high of 326 against England at Lord’s in 2002. The chase is also the highest by any team against Pakistan, with the previous record, belonging to Australia’s 316 at Lahore in 1998.
Captain Misbah-ul-Haq, was visibly disappointed with the loss, but still credited the Indian squad for a great game. “Excellent innings by Kohli. Credit goes to their batsmen, it’s easy out there under lights, 329 is still a good score. The best innings (Kohli) I have ever seen” he said.
Captain Dhoni, on the other hand, was amazed with his team for pulling off, what looked to be an impossible win, and said: “They batted brilliantly, we used 8 bowlers. Sachin and Virat batted brilliantly, Rohit can be a good finisher. Kohli was brilliant. Once you cross 300 it’s difficult irrespective of how flat the pitch is, we did it in Hobart. We’ve got the talent in the bowling department also.”
With their unbelievable victory against Pakistan, India, can only hope that Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh, when the two sides clash on the 20th of March at Dhaka, in order to have a chance of getting to the finals to face rivals Pakistan once again.