Virat Kohli hit an unbeaten 55 under extreme pressure to guide India to a six-wicket victory over rivals Pakistan in a World T20 Super 10 Group two match in Kolkata that was reduced to 18 overs per side due to rain.
The Eden Gardens was at the centre of all the attention as the hosts took on their arch-rivals at the World T20.
Rain threatened to dampen the interest and the fervour, but the packed house witnessed India maintain their unbeaten record against Pakistan in the World T20 with a six-wicket victory in an 18-over game.
Pakistan put up 118 for five, which was overhauled by India thanks to Virat Kohli.
India’s struggle against New Zealand was still fresh in memory and once they were reduced to 23 for three in the fifth over, the crowd feared an encore.
Mohammad Sami, who replaced Imad Wasim for this game, had bowled Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina off consecutive deliveries. Kohli and Yuvraj Singh then came together and stitched a 61-run stand that helped India get back in the game.
Amidst all the nerves, the duo soaked the pressure well. Kohli was the aggressor as he calculated his approach to perfection. At the other end, Yuvraj Singh was a little more circumspect during his innings of 24.
Once again, Kohli showed why he stands out in international cricket. There was calm and control in his knock, which also helped India keep the asking rate in check.
He achieved his fifty as India closed in on the total. They won with two overs to spare. Skipper MS Dhoni stayed unbeaten along with Kohli.
Earlier, India had won the toss and elected to field in the rain-reduced game. Pakistan’s openers started slowly on a turning track as India opened the bowling with Ravichandran Ashwin.
Pakistan did very well to get to their eventual score after the slow start thanks to an attacking partnership from Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal. One could see that spin was the dominant factor. Ashwin bowled three overs for 12. Ravindra Jadeja was turning it a lot and Suresh Raina also chipped in with an over.
Pakistan perhaps made the error in reading the pitch as they dropped the left-arm spinner Wasim and brought in a pace bowler. Though Sami bowled a good spell early on, Pakistan clearly needed a specialist spinner in these conditions.
Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik’s spin was safely negotiated by the Indian batsmen and they were largely untroubled by them though there was turn on offer.
India now head to Bangalore to face Bangladesh, whereas Pakistan travel north to Mohali, where they would face New Zealand and Australia.
Nishad Vaidya at Eden Gardens