Virat Kohli secured international cricket’s most anticipated hundred as he hit the elusive triple digit mark after 1,020 days to set up India’s massive 101-run victory over Afghanistan and ease the Cup’s dead rubber from Asia here on Thursday.
Kohli hit a high-quality 122 not on 61 balls for his 71st international cent to bring India to 212 for two after Afghanistan batted India.
Perhaps still angry after their heartbreaking loss to Pakistan the previous night, Afghanistan were blown away by a top-class swing bowling spell from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who found himself with a career-best five wickets for four runs in 24 balls, including 20 run deliveries.
With the conditions helping his strength, Bhuvneshwar swung the ball back and forth at will, leaving the opposition in ruins at 21 for six. Their innings ended at 111 for eight in 20 overs.
However, the night belonged to Kohli who warmed a billion hearts with a special round.
His undefeated effort on 61 balls earned him his first cent since November 2019 and 71st overall, tying Ricky Ponting’s international centuries tally. He is now only behind Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time list. It was also Kohli’s first ton in the shortest format.
As Rohit Sharma rested for the final match of the Indian tournament, substitute skipper KL Rahul (62 from 41) and Kohli shared an entertaining 119 from 76 for the opening wicket.
Kohli started messing with the field and the bowlers towards the end of the innings, which was a good enough indication that he was back to his best. Rahul’s shot was his most confident since returning from injury.
The openers played brilliantly against spinners including Rashid Khan (0-33), an area they needed to address ahead of the T20 World Cup.
It was vintage Kohli on display as he came out towards the spinners, punching through the pitch perfectly and even playing a rare sweeping shot.
This sweeping shot came in the sixth over played by Mujeeb Ur Rehman. The next ball he went down the lane to hit a straight six.
The former India captain was also lucky on his way to a memorable hundred as he was dropped deep under Mohammad Nabi in the eight over.
With India at 87 for no loss in 10 overs and Kohli on song, India looked set for a massive total.
It was raining bounds over the final five overs as Kohli hit the elusive triple digit mark with a clean shot from pacer Fareed Ahmed. He took off his helmet, hugged teammate Rishabh Pant and smiled in disbelief before kissing his necklace as part of his celebration.
He finished the sets in style by smashing two sixes and a four over Fazalhaq Farooqi to push India past 200 runs. The disdain with which he hammered bowlers and his nimble footwork showed that ‘King Kohli’ was well and truly back.
Another shot that showed Kohli’s supreme confidence was when he came out to throw the crafty Rashid for maximum on the deep midwicket.
Kohli is no stranger to the opening position and after his sensational effort, the case to keep him at the top alongside Rohit has also been opened.
It was a clinical display from India in their final Super 4 game, but their premature exit from another multi-team tournament has raised more questions ahead of the T20 World Cup from next month.
India’s constant chopping and shifting in the playing XI and lack of bowling depth hurt them in the continental event.
With the playoffs against Australia and South Africa lined up ahead of the ICC Down Under event, the Indian think tank still has a lot to do.
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