Date: February 28, 2012, match 11 of the Commonwealth tri-series. The match was played between India and Sri Lanka, where the world would see the transformation of Indian batting line up that had depended on the performances of senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag. The third team of the contest, Australia, were already in the finals. Indians needed to chase down the target set by Sri Lanka in just 40 overs to keep their hopes of entering the final alive. What happened that day is etched in the memories of every single lover of the sport in the nation. It was the day when another legend of the game, Virat Kohli, announced his arrival in style.
The Sri Lankan batting lineup made sure that none of the Indian bowlers were spared, and they posted a mammoth score of 320/4 in their 50 overs with the help of a blistering 160 by Tillakaratne Dilshan and 105 by Kumar Sangakara. This was a winning total in terms of a 50 over match. India had to chase it in a mere 40 overs. A task that appeared impossible to accomplish and both the spectators as well as the experts have ruled out the chances of India remaining alive in the contest. Sri Lanka would’ve hoped for nothing less than a victory despite the strong Indian batting line up that featured the great Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, and others. But, Virat Kohli had some other plans.
When the play resumed after the innings break, the explosive opening pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag took the crease. The Indian fans welcomed them with a roar. They knew the two big guns needed to fire if India wanted to win the game. The only problem was that Sri Lanka had Lasith Malinga, who was at his peak during the series. But Sehwag never discriminated while smashing the bowlers. The two gave a flying start to India. The first 50 runs came in just six overs, and by then, Sri Lanka had realized that Indians were there for a fight. Sehwag was playing at a strike rate of 200 when his wicket fell. He got out after a quick-fired 30 off 16 deliveries. Sachin was matching him shot by shot. But India’s fear converted into reality when Malinga got rid of Sachin with his trademark yorker. Sachin got LBW out after scoring a 39 off 30 deliveries, and besides Malinga’s roar, there was pin-drop silence in the crowd. It Was Over for many of them. Then came the man, Virat Kohli. Kohli joined Gautam Gambhir, who was playing at 17 off ten deliveries. Even the greatest pundits of the game wouldn’t have imagined what they were about to witness. Kohli started with a boundary, an on-drive to Malinga. It was first of the many that were about to decimate the Sri Lankan bowling lineup and hound them for years to come. Kohli scored his 50 off 44 balls, and the stage was set for a show with Gambhir playing steadily on the other end.
When everything was going India’s way, Gambhir found a way to get out. He got run out shortly after scoring his half-century. India was 203/3.
The Kohli-Raina Show
The next few overs were a nightmare for the Sri Lankan bowling line up, including their best Lasith Malinga. Kohli unleashed his fury with all sorts of shots that he had in his quiver. Raina was no different. No one had done this to Malinga. Neither before nor after. He was being pounded by two youngsters, and the world was watching in awe. People’s comparison of Virat with his idol, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, was transforming into reality, and they were witnessing the creation of history. The two sent the ball into every corner of the ground, and it begged for mercy. So did the Lankans. From 50 off 44, it took Kohli just 32 more balls to smash a world-class century. One that he will cherish for a lifetime. The next over (35) was probably the worst of Malinga’s career. He would give anything to wipe that out of his stats. Virat smashed 24 of Malinga’s over who was till the previous day famous for his toe-breaking yorkers. Virat smashed one six and four boundaries in that over, and the Lankans’ heads were down in disdain. The over reading – 2, 6, 4, 4, 4, 4.
India achieved the humongous target of 321 in just 36.4 overs. 3.2 overs earlier than the required target to remain alive in the race for the finals. Virat remained not out with 133 off 86 balls supported by an equally explosive 40 off 24 balls by his southpaw partner Suresh Raina. History had been created. Sri Lankans couldn’t understand what had hit him. This was one of the many instances when Kohli grounded the whole Sri Lankan bowling attack single-handedly. “The best knock so many people have ever seen. It’s unforgettable,” the commentator uttered as the two young batsmen hugged each other in joy. Virat Kohli had announced his arrival in international cricket in grand style. How right was Sachin Tendulkar when he said that Virat could break his records. The inning was a signal to teams across the world about what their bowlers were about to face.