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There's nothing quite like spending a day at the cricket. The sound of the ball hitting the bat, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the taste of hot chips smothered in tomato sauce... It's a true summertime tradition. And there's no better place to enjoy it than at the historic Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Whether you're cheering on your favorite team or simply soaking up the atmosphere, a day at the cricket is sure to be a highlight for any cricket lover. And as for me, I was very fortunate enough to have secured tickets to the MCG for the big clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan on the 23rd of October, 2022.
It was one of those days you literally dream of. India playing Pakistan at the MCG that too in a T20 World Cup match. Nothing can get better than this, right? Plus, the crowd going berserk with chants of “India, India” echoing around the stadium. It was indeed an incredible experience!
Now, to the main part – the big World Cup match between India and Pakistan.
Clash of the Titans – India vs Pakistan
India had won the important toss and sent their arch-rivals in to bat first on what seemed to be like a good batting deck. Pakistan’s in-form openers Mohammad Rizwan and skipper Babar Azam walked out to bat, but neither could make any impact as India’s left armer Arshdeep Singh (3 for 32 off 4 overs), dismissed both batters inside the first four overs.
Pakistan clawed their way back into the contest with a solid partnership between Shaan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed. While the duo were at the crease, the Pakistani fans in the stadium were going crazy. The Indian fans on the other hand, were just hoping for a big breakthrough.
Just as the game seemed to drift Pakistan’s way, Mohammed Shami prized out Iftikhar Ahmed (51 off 34) and then Hardik Pandya (3 for 30 in 4 overs) inflicted a double blow with two wickets in an over as Pakistan slipped to 98 for 5. Shaan Masood (52* off 42) managed to hold one end up but kept losing partners. But a quickfire cameo by Shaheen Shah Afridi (16 off 8) propelled Pakistan to a decent score of 159 for 8 in their allotted 20 overs.
In Pursuit of 160…
160 was the magic number that India had to get to claim victory over their arch-nemesis. By no means it was an easy target, especially because Pakistan had some lethal bowlers at their disposal. And that was reflected in the early parts of the game as their seamers wreaked havoc, dismissing four Indian batters (one was a run-out) as India slumped to 31 for 4 in just 6.1 overs.
The writing seemed to be on the wall. The crowd went numb. It all seemed doom and gloom, but then, a certain man named Virat Kohli was still at the crease, and there was still hope. A glimmer of hope, but hope nonetheless.
Kohli was joined by Hardik Pandya in the middle at the fall of the 4th wicket. And with India going in with 7 batters, this partnership was literally make or break. Meanwhile, Kohli and Pandya decided to take the game deep, and hence, they were looking to rotate strike, which meant that the required run rate kept creeping up every over.
At the 10th over mark, India were reeling at 45 for 4, still needing a massive 115 from 60 deliveries. It was doable no doubt, but India had to make sure both Kohli and Pandya bat till at least the 18th or 19th overs. India needed to change gears soon, and in the 12th over of the chase, they did just that. They took on left-arm spinner Nawaz for 3 sixes in the over and collected 20 runs off that over.
The Final Five Overs…
15 overs in, and India were 100 for 4. 60 runs needed for the final 5 overs. It was doable, yes. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Two excellent overs of 6 runs each followed after that and the required runs were now 48 off 18 balls. It was getting tougher and tougher for team India, but Kohli and Pandya seemed to be calm under pressure.
Shaheen Afridi came back to bowl the pivotal 18th over. It was make or break for either team. The required run rate was 16 per over, and India managed 17 off the 18th, thanks to 3 glorious boundaries by none other than Virat Kohli.
Haris Rauf came to bowl the penultimate over with 31 required off 12 balls. Pressure was on both teams as Rauf held his nerve and delivered four excellent deliveries to start the over off and only conceded 3 runs. Now, India needed 28 off 8 and Kohli was on strike…
Ball number 5 by Rauf was a slower one, and Kohli rocked back onto his backfoot and lofted it over the bowler’s head for a breath-taking 6. Next ball, Kohli flicked it over fine leg for another 6. Two balls, twelve runs. The equation came down to 16 off the last over.
At this point, the crowd were chanting “Kohli, Kohli” and it was such a delightful sight to be a part of. The match wasn’t done yet, but the Indian fans started to believe that victory was in sight.
Meanwhile, Pakistan were out of fast bowling options and had to bring on their spinner Mohammad Nawaz to bowl the final over.
The Final Over Drama
Sheer drama unfolded in the last over of the match. Ball one, Pandya was dismissed after trying to hoick one down the ground, only to have mistimed it straight to the fielder at cover.
Next ball, the new man Karthik, sliced it down to long on and took a single to give the strike back to the man of the moment, Virat Kohli. 15 needed off 4 now.
Ball 3, Kohli whacks it straight down the ground but there wasn’t enough power on the shot, so the batters run two. Now, 13 needed off 3.
Ball 4, a high full toss, and Kohli smokes it just over the fielder in the deep for a six. Plus, the umpire signaled a no-ball for height. Now, just 6 were needed off 3. And the crowd erupted. They all were ecstatic as victory seemed to be in sight.
Ball 5, the bowler bowls a wide and had to re-load. The free hit still stood. 5 needed off 3. The bowler re-bowled the free-hit ball, and Kohli tried to swing across the line, only for the ball to rattle his stumps and run toward third man. And by the time, the Pakistani fielder gets to the ball, the batters run 3.
Now, India needed 2 off 2, with Karthik on strike. But unfortunately, Karthik is stumped. India need 2 runs off 1 ball. And the crowd went silent.
Ball 6, it’s a WIDE. The bowler darts one in, but Ashwin simply lets it go to the keeper, and the umpire calls a wide. Now, 1 needed off 1. All the fielders are in the 30-yard circle.
Ball 6 again, Ashwin lofts it over mid-off. They take the run. India win. India beat Pakistan by 4 wickets off the final ball of the match. What a thrilling game! And undoubtedly, Kohli was the star with a match winning 82* off 53!
It was a close game, and the tension was palpable in the air. The fans were chanting, and the players were giving it their all. In the end, India just about managed to edge out Pakistan and it was an absolutely thrilling match to watch. I'll never forget that day, it was simply incredible.
Cricket is indeed such an exciting game, and I'm so glad I got to see two of the best teams in the world go head-to-head in such a classic encounter. Thank you, MCG!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ronald Daniel Sampson