The Best ODI of 2012: The Kohli Saga
The greatest ever ODI match to be witnessed is the 2006 Johannesburg epic between South Africa and Australia, where the Proteas chased a humongous 434 in a last ball encounter to have an Australian world record disposed in under four hours. There was one chase this year that almost matched the fervour of the South African chase as Virat Kohli rose to the occasion, demolishing the hapless Sri Lankan attack with a splendid display of classic cricketing shots.
The Hobart ODI comes nowhere close to the humdinger at Johannesburg, but the pressure of the situation and the intensity with which Kohli timed his knock, makes it the ODI of the year. India came into the match knowing that they had to chase down a total in less than 40 overs to give them any chance of making it to the finals of the tri-nation tournament.
But the resilience of Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara in the middle were too much for the Indian bowlers as they failed to do any damage for most part of the match. Dilshan and Sanga waited for the loose deliveries and played the good ones without any risk, knowing that a total in the excess of 300 would throw up a very outside chance for the Indians. Nothing really seemed wrong with the Lankans strategy, as any team would have done exactly the same, given the lackluster form of the Indian batsmen in the kangaroo nation.
Sanga was amongst the runs right from the word ‘go’ as he toiled the Indian pacers and etched out a sensible 200-run partnership with Dilshan. The latter, who started on a slower note, shifted gears in the slog overs, as the team accumulated around 70 runs in the last six overs. With 320 runs on the board, neither the Indian supporters nor the Sri Lankan players would have counted on the Indian team to climb the uphill task of making it in less than 40 overs.
There is a popular saying that goes, ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man.’ And that was true of this spirited youngster, considered to be the next-big-thing in the Indian team, who put forth a scintillating display with the bat, making the ‘impossible’ cries a joke, and empowering the entire Indian cricketing fraternity. He seemed to have that Midas touch, as he made the good balls look bad and the bad deliveries dreadful.
The manner in which he built his innings was marvellous and matured enough, as he went berserk towards the end, especially against Malinga, who looked completely out of sorts against the flamboyant youngster. His innings contained sixteen boundaries and two sixes, and each of those shots were a treat to the eyes of a cricket lover. He subdued the pressure off the rest of the side and carried the responsibility throughout his innings to ensure his team ventured into the comfort zone.
Credits must also be given to the openers, Sehwag and Sachin, who imbibed a spark of confidence into the side with a swashbuckling start to the chase. When they were done, Gambhir played sensible cricket, rotating the strike and picking up the gaps all around the wicket. He and Kohli ensured smooth transition into the middle overs as the Sri Lankan bowlers looked pretty overconfident of defending the total in 40 overs.
Kohli kept on the scoreboard ticking and when he believed he had spent enough time in the middle, he raised his game and punished Malinga and Co. for their lethargic attitude. He spared no one in the opposition attack and launched a brutal attack on Malinga in the 35th over, hitting him for 24 runs and thus completing one of the best ever ODI centuries in the process. On the other end, Raina complimented Kohli with some of his trademark shots over midwicket and lived up to his reputation of being one of the best finishers in the business.
Malinga’s fearsome slinging yorkers were outdone by some amazing flicks and straight drives from Virat; Malinga ended up with the worst economy rate ever in ODIs as a result. Virat not only led India to a win, but established himself on the cricket arena as the first Kohli, dismissing other popular tags such as the second Sachin and Dravid.
India’s historic win might have gone in vain with the islanders thrashing the Aussies in the following match, but the next chapter of Indian cricket had got its title – Virat Kohli!
I have always felt this was the match of the year, despite a few other closely fought contests reminding us of the nature of cricket played this year.
Asia Cup Final – Pakistan vs Bangladesh -Pak 236/6 beat Ban 234/9 (2 runs)
SA vs SL – 5th ODI – RSA 312/4 lost to SL 314/8 (2 wickets, 1 ball)
WI vs Aus – 3rd ODI – Aus 220(49.5) tied WI 220(49.4)
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