Johannesburg: Virat Kohli’s bat-speed was the striking aspect of his batsmanship. Whether wading into the bowling with whiplash drives and flicks or picking the length in a flash for the pull, the young man was in his element at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
The right-hander sparkled under the lights with an unbeaten 79 (104b, 9x4, 2x6) enabling India to defeat the West Indies by seven wickets in the last Group ‘A’ match of the ICC Champions Trophy. Kohli was adjudged Man-of-the-Match.
India knew early during its chase of 130 — Australia had prevailed over Pakistan in a humdinger — that it was out of the competition.
The third-wicket partnership of 92 runs between Kohli and Dinesh Karthik put India firmly on course after the side was rocked early on in the chase.
The left-handed Gautam Gambhir played with limited feet movement on a seaming track to drag one from paceman Kemar Roach on to his stumps.
Moments later, Rahul Dravid was run-out again — by a direct hit from David Bernard at the non-striker’s end — after playing Gavin Tonge to mid-wicket.
Karthik held firm. He pulled Roach and cover-drove Darren Sammy majestically for boundaries.
On those occasions when he drove, he leaned into his stroke.
Kohli was not always convincing in his footwork against the paceman but there is an undeniable streak of flamboyance in his cricket. He slashed Tonge hard over point and when Roach pitched up and provided width, he square-drove. Kohli’s pulled six off Bernard had the Indian supporters roaring.
Karthik (34, 79b, 4x4) was dismissed attempting to hit Tonge over mid-on but Kolhi, who danced down to off-spinner Nikita Miller to hit a delightful six over long-off, and Abhishek Nayar guided India home in the 33rd over.
Earlier, pacemen Aashish Nehra and Praveen Kumar bowled zestfully on yet another lively pitch at the Wanderers after Mahendra Singh Dhoni opted to field.
The Indians suffered a body blow ahead of the contest when a stomach infection ruled Sachin Tendulkar out of the game. India left out struggling paceman Ishant Sharma. The move was a telling commentary on the serious dip in the lanky paceman’s form. Praveen was impressive.
He is not sharp but bowls a lovely line around the off-stump and can move the ball both ways from a pronounced wrist action.
Praveen mixed his inswing with outswing cleverly before consuming Andre Fletcher.
Nehra, then, slipped into the wicket-taking mode. The left-arm paceman bowled a telling line — around the off-stump — to the left-handed Kieran Powell from over-the-wicket. And the slight away movement found the outside edge.
Travis Dowlin and David Bernard were building a partnership when Dhoni brought himself on allowing Karthik to don the big gloves.
The Indian skipper, a regular bowler during nets, worked up a brisk pace – around 80 mph — and moved the ball around. He castled Dowlin with a delivery angled into the right-hander.