By our correspondent
MELBOURNE: It was a game of nerves. And it was India which succeeded to keep cool and raced to a four-wicket win in their Group B opener against Pakistan here at the iconic stadium, the MCG, on Sunday.
Set to chase 160, India needed 31 off two overs. They brought in 15 off the penultimate over from Haris Rauf with Virat Kohli hitting him for two glorious sixes off his last two balls to keep India in the hunt. And then in the last over mayhem India were lucky to get those runs in the over of the left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz who was hit for a six, a delivery which was declared as controversial no-ball by the umpire and then lucky three runs off the next ball which was free hit when Kohli bowled and the ball went through the third man with the batsmen completing three runs. India needed two off the last ball but Nawaz bowled a wide to tie the game and India required one off the last ball and Ashwin took an easy single to bring a sensational win for India.
The hero of the game was Virat Kohli who played a commanding knock of 82 not out which also earned for him man of the match award.
At a stage when India were reduced to 31-4 it seemed it was now absolutely difficult for them to overcome the target. However at this stage Hardik Pandya (40) provided a fine assistance to Virat and the duo shared 113 in the fifth wicket stand which kept India in the hunt.
Pandya, removed by Nawaz, struck two sixes and one four in his 37-ball knock. Kohli stayed until the end, smashing four sixes and six fours to bring his 34th fifty.
Earlier, Naseem Shah provided an early breakthrough when he had KL Rahul (4) before Haris Rauf added to the misery of India with a wicket of Rohit Sharma (4) to leave India in trouble.
Haris then had Suryakumar Yadav (15) and a run out of Axar Patel (2) further dented India’s chances in the game.
However Kohli and Pandya batted extremely well to not only revive India’s innings but also got them over the line after a nail-biting finish.
Haris bowled extremely well, claiming 2-36 in his quota of four overs while Nawaz captured 2-42. Naseem Shah was the most economical bowler as he gave away only 23 runs in four overs by taking the wicket of Rahul.
Shaheen Afridi (0-34) and Shadab Khan (0-21) ere the others who made good effort.
Earlier after being invited to bat first Pakistan received a double blow when they lost skipper Babar Azam (0) and Mohammad Rizwan (4) in quick succession. However at this stage Shan Masood (52*) and Iftikhar Ahmed (51) displayed fine skills and shared a valuable 76-run stand for the third wicket to revive Pakistan’s innings. Mohammad Shami broke the dangerous stand when he had Iftikhar who hit four sixes and two fours in his 34-ball knock.
Shan kept batting until the end, scoring his third fifty in T20 Internationals. He hit five fours in his 42-ball knock. Shaheen Afridi in the end used long handle, scoring an eight-ball 16 which carried one six and one four to take his side to 159-8 in the allotted 20 overs, a game which was earlier was expected to be hit by rain.
Arshdeep Singh (3-32) and Hardik Pandya (3-30) bowled well.
Kohli was adjudged as man of the match for his glorious match-winning knock.
Pakistan will face Netherlands in their next game on October 30.