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HomesportscricketICC WC: Kohli's 95, Shami fifer fire India to 4-wicket win against...

ICC WC: Kohli's 95, Shami fifer fire India to 4-wicket win against Kiwis; continue unbeaten streak

Dharamsala: A sea of humanity congregated in Dharamsala to drape themselves in the magic that is the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium. They got a whole lot of that whimsical experience and also ended up walking away with a sense that this Indian team could be destined for greatness after all.

In a setting which is hard to describe with words alone, India put on a show which relegated even the majesty of the mountains beyond for fleeting moments as they strung together a victory that they can be proud of. It was cohesive, it showed character, and then, there was Virat Kohli.

There’s little point trying to understand how he does what he does anymore for genius is always tucked behind the essence of enigma, but numbers always reveal its impact.

Kohli’s 95 – five runs short of his 49th One-Day International century – pushed India’s unbeaten run in the World Cup to five and also propped them to the top of the table in the wake of their five-wicket win over New Zealand.

As important as those facts are, it was the arrogance and authority with which India played that inspired a feeling that Rohit Sharma and Co are now, and firmly so, the favourites in this tournament.

Besides the fact that the bowlers managed to restrict New Zealand to 273 on a wicket which promised more than 300, especially in the wake of a quintessential ODI knock from Daryl Mitchell (130), each of India’s batters was in telling form en route 274 for 6 in 48 overs.

From Rohit’s velvet-coated bludgeoning to Shubman Gill’s brief but beauteous 26. From KL Rahul’s ease en route 27 to Shreyas Iyer’s purposeful 33. Each of them made his stay count to a degree, but none of them was as determined as Kohli on this mist-laden night.

From the time Rohit and Gill departed in quick succession, you could see a switch go off in Kohli. Every shot was accompanied by a fist pump. Every time his partner would score a boundary, the reaction was just as animated.

The ultimate chaser had set his sights on yet another score, and boy, did he go about that with some finesse. From the time he played an on-the-rise square drive off Lockie Ferguson, it was plenty apparent that Kohli was in that mood again.

You know the one that saw him get to his 48th hundred in the previous game against Bangladesh? That look was in his eyes again, and it only intensified with the dismissal of Rahul and the comical run-out of Suryakumar Yadav.

With Ravindra Jadeja by his side offering plenty in his unbeaten 39, Kohli typified precision, poise and patience. Just another day for him perhaps.

But it wasn’t so for India’s bowlers. It was interesting in that they were under the pump for a decent portion of the innings with Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra (75) taking them on, but then they came around and ended up with eight Kiwis for 95 runs on a pitch which wasn’t complicated to score on.

Front and centre of this clawback was Mohammed Shami and his fifer under duress. Included in the side because of Hardik Pandya’s ankle injury and the conditions here, Shami showed once again why he is not a pacer to be trifled with.

The same can be said of both Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj, who coincidentally finished with identical figures of 10-1-45-1. But, it must be noted that had it not been for Shami’s vim and vigour, India would have slouched far more than they already had on account of their shoddy fielding effort.

In the end, New Zealand’s immaculate fielding, the 11-minute stoppage due to mist, the significance of the contest… none of it mattered as Kohli and India shone brighter than the gem they were playing at.

(Published 22 October 2023, 16:42 IST)

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