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India vs New Zealand: Kiwis end up chasing Virat Kohli, shadows in Mohali

Matt Henry sat mid-pitch on his haunches, clutching his head with both hands. The stadium around him erupted.

New Zealand had laid a trap for Virat Kohli and very nearly succeded. Henry fed him a fuller length delivery and Kohli duly drove it through cover for a boundary. The next ball was shorter and closer to the stumps. Kohli edged it trying to steer to third man. At wide-slip, which had been placed for the India vice-captain for this precise moment, Ross Taylor, who has been an almighty non-performing asset for New Zealand on this tour, grassed a sitter. Wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi walked up to the fielder and offered what seemed like, ‘It’s all right. Doesn’t matter.’ But it mattered. And Matt Henry knew it. And the crowd knew it.

There aren’t too many more prized wickets in world cricket than Virat Kohli’s today. And certainly none in a chase. It was here on this very ground seven months ago that Kohli took Australia apart in a most calm and calculating fashion to put India in the semifinal of the World T20. It wasn’t a chase as much as a cold vivisection of a mouse in a biology laboratory.

Kohli was on six when he was dropped. For the next 130 balls, he didn’t give Blackcaps a second whiff. He accumulated first, playing a second fiddle to his captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni in a mammoth partnership, and later took the baton and ran away. The captain had promoted himself to No.4 after the fall of Rohit Sharma. Dhoni had always expressed the desire to bat up the order after the 2015 World Cup. It deprives India of a proven finisher, all right, but the upside is that if he and Virat get going, like they did on Sunday, the team more often that not will not need a finisher. Dhoni came out aggressively, frequently jumping down the track and taking on the bowlers. As two of the best runners between the wickets in world cricket, they proceeded to put more pressure on the bowlers. The big outfield further obliged them.

“It was important that we built a partnership at that stage and go for those calculated big shots because we know if both of us were around we could stretch the opposition, convert the one-and-a-halfs into two,” Dhoni later offered.

“I won’t say it was an easy wicket, so it was not easy to keep rotating the strike. I thought we adjusted very well in the middle overs because we knew there will be overs where we won’t get more than 3-4 runs per over and we knew later on we can always get overs where we can score 8-9 runs and compensate for it. It was calculated chase and we are glad we didn’t lose too many wicket and ended up on the winning side. I think it was fantastic with the way we laid up and how we achieved the target,” the captain added.


Dhoni was dismissed on 80 after the duo had completed a 151-run partnership. India still needed 94 runs off 85 runs. With a whip off his hips off Tim Southee for a boundary and a couple of singles Kohli brought up his 26th ODI ton. In his earlier avatar, Kohli would have lept in the air even before completing the 100th run. He would have taken the helmet off and hurled a few abuses at the world in general. But this is a man who is polishing every rough edge. The helmet didn’t come off, the bat was grudgingly raised in acknowledgment. The message was clear: he wasn’t done yet. The heartless cameraman cut to Taylor. The big screen showed him clapping in appreciation.

“A bit of luck went my way, I feel sorry for Ross, it’s never easy to drop a catch and the batsman carries through. I’ve done that, and Brendon (McCullum) got 300 in Wellington (in 2014),” Kohli would later say at the presentation.

By now, the wicket had slowed down and the new man in Manish Pandey struggled a bit to adjust. Kohli took the pressure off his partner with a cheeky boundary past third man off Trent Boult and then running hard between the wickets.

“(Pandey and I) fed off each other, I fed off MS as well. And it wasn’t the easiest pitch. Some balls were stopping on us. In the past I have tried to play out of my skin, getting overexcited, but I’ve realised if I can time the ball, and hit the gaps and run hard, I can still get runs. If a bowler can hit the right areas and be good, a batsman can be good playing proper shots,” Kohli added.

Stepping on the gas

With the finish line in sight, Kohli stepped on the gas. In one over of Trent Boult, he plundered 22 runs unfurling a range of strokes. There was a deft four past sweeper cover, a lofted shot over mid-off, an effortless six back over the bowler’s head and four past backward point — in the space of six balls, he showed 270-degree hitting, targeting a wide arc between deep point and deep mid-wicket. And it was all low-risk classical shot-making all the way.

In the process, he brought up his 150. In the next over, Pandey pulled Henry past midwicket to make it 2-1 for India.

At post-match presentation, New Zealand captain Williamson summed the evening best. “I suppose if you don’t dismiss this man (Kohli) in a chase.. You always want more on the board, we thought at the halfway stage at 160 for 3, we were good. But to lose those wickets and end up on 280, we were pleased. Maybe we wanted more, but with early wickets we could have made it harder. You have to dismiss them, Kohli and Dhoni put on 150 and took the game away,” he said. As for Taylor’s drop, he added philosophically, “It’s part of the game, unfortunately, you want to catch them all, doesn’t always happen.”

Author: Daksh Panwar     Source: indianexpress

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