DUBAI: After 1020 days of agony, anxiety and scrutiny, Virat Kohli was awarded an international hundred on Thursday night. The wait for his 71st international cent ended when he dismissively knocked Afghanistan’s Fareed Ahmad over the center wicket boundary to pop his first century T20I with just 53 balls.
As he took off his helmet, raised his bat to the crowd in the stadium and kissed his wedding ring in his necklace, Kohli’s sweet smile screamed the relief he must be feeling. Probably, he would have least expected to conjure up his 71st century in the shortest format while opening the innings with regular skipper Rohit Sharma choosing to rest in the game without consequence.
How it happened
Only an event as special as this could have injected some interest into the game. His unbeaten innings of 122 from 61 (with 12 fours and six sixes), which had a blemish when he was dropped on the 28th by Ibrahim Zadran amid captain Mohammad Nabi’s deep wicket, helped India display a gigantic total of 212/2.

The game after Kohli’s shot quickly became a drag after Bhuvneshwar Kumar annihilated the Afghan first order taking 5/4 in his four overs. And the drudgery ended with Dinesh Karthik winning the final round of India’s campaign here in the Asian Cup as India finished with 101 wins with Afghanistan mustering 111/8.

For a man with a great affinity for occasions, Kohli would have loved when the time came in a match of greater importance. Given how hostile things have been for him over the past year, he’ll accept any good news that comes his way. Kohli arrived here in Dubai with question marks over his place in the T20 squad. He leaves as India’s top scorer by far.

It was India’s last outing in the tournament. Along with Rohit, Hardik Pandya and Yuzvendra Chahal were rested. For most of India’s innings, both teams seemed to go through the stages. The Afghan bowlers, exhausted from the emotionally charged humdinger they played against Pakistan in Sharjah the night before, looked clearly jaded and pushed themselves to put on a similar performance.
Kohli and Rahul, who entered the tournament in search of playing time, were not going to be missed. The calm start to the first four overs of the power play may have indicated India’s struggles in the top of the innings, but both knew they had to make it count.
They faced Nabi and Rashid Khan to build momentum in the innings. The footwork seemed nimble as it comes with a clear mind. Maybe the pressure of a big game wasn’t there. Still, it was a chance to shake things up for them.
As Kohli started to find the fence with ease, Rahul got into the act and started to outplay him before being fired for 62 out of 41 balls that had six limits and two sixes.
Kohli was still sailing through the innings. But he took it to another level after the 15th even as Rishabh Pant struggled to find the right moment. Kohli ran hard between the wickets and cornered the strike in the final five overs as he netted 87 on 42 balls for the third wicket with Pant scoring just 20 from 16 balls.
He hopped down the track to Rashid Khan, effortless punches through the covers, slides past the short third man and jabs through the middle wicket said he was on auto mode again. Fazalhaq Farooqi and Fareed Ahmad, the two daredevil left-arm point guards from Afghanistan, discovered what bowling was like against the gold standard.
Like the hit against Pakistan last Sunday, this round also had a Kohli brand written all over it. As he has done throughout his career, Kohli demonstrated that a T20I round could be paced adequately by playing orthodox manual strokes and not the modern funky strokes. If India were looking for a positive exit from the tournament, it had to be Kohli showing he was at his best.



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