T20 World Cup: Kohli top scores with 76 as India post 176/7 against South Africa

Bridgetown (Barbados), June 29 : Talismanic batter Virat Kohli stepped up to the plate, ending his lean patch with a 59-ball 76 to help India post a competitive 176/7 against South Africa in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 at the Kensington Oval here on Saturday.

On a dry and slow pitch, South Africa made early inroads by picking three quick wickets. But Kohli stood up to be at the centre of India’s innings, despite a middle-overs slowdown, with his crucial knock laced with six fours and two sixes, as they posted the highest total in a Men’s T20 World Cup final. It was a knock in which Kohli scored more than what his first seven innings in the tournament yielded (75 runs).

His 72-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Axar Patel, who made 47 off 31 balls, and a 57-run partnership with Shivam Dube, who hit a 16-ball 27, helped India go past the 175-run mark, as they hammered 42 runs off the last three overs. Kohli got India going with three boundaries – drive through point, whip through square leg, and straight drive – on overpitched deliveries from Marco Jansen, as 15 runs came off the opening over. Rohit Sharma cut and reverse-swept for consecutive boundaries off Keshav Maharaj. But Maharaj bounced back as he had Rohit sweeping aerially to square-leg to fall for nine, followed by dismissing Rishabh Pant for a two-ball duck when the top-edge on his sweep off a full and wide ball ballooned off the toe-end to keeper Quinton de Kock.

Kagiso Rabada struck in the fifth over when Suryakumar Yadav moved across to whip a back-of-a-length ball, but fine leg advanced to his left and took a spectacular catch, ending his stay on just three, as India were reduced to 34/3 in 4.3 overs. With Kohli taking up the busy strike-rotation role in rebuilding India’s innings, pinch-hitter Axar took up the attacking mantle by clipping Rabada for four, clearing deep mid-wicket to get a six off Markram, slog-sweeping Maharaj for a maximum over the same region and hitting a flat six down on one knee to just clear long-on for a six off Tabraiz Shamsi. Axar brought up India’s hundred in 13.1 overs by hammering Rabada for a six down the ground. But a ball and wide later, South Africa produced a moment of magic when Kohli missed a delivery and the ball went behind to de Kock, who ran out Axar, who turned back and ran slowly, with a direct hit and sent him back for 47.

With Kohli still finding fielders and not getting timing to hit boundaries, Dube lofted Jansen for six and then slog-sweep Shamsi for four more. After Kohli got his first fifty of this tournament, in 48 balls with a single off Nortje, Dube ended the 17th over with a slice past the backward point for four. Kohli got his first six of the competition by slogging Rabada over long-on and then pulled the pacer for four more, as 16 runs came off the 18th over. Kohli clipped and slogged Jansen for four and six respectively, before the pacer dragged his length back and had the batter holing out to long-on. Hardik Pandya came in and top-edged a pull off Jansen over the keeper’s head for four, as 17 runs came off the 19th over. Dube struck Nortje down the ground past a diving mid-on for four, before the pacer bounced back by taking out him and Ravindra Jadeja on the last three balls of the innings to keep India four runs below 180. Brief scores: India 176/7 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 76, Axar Patel 47; Keshav Maharaj 2-23, Anrich Nortje 2-26) against South Africa