It may have lasted just 15 balls, but their electric contest was the treat of the match
'Amir is world-class' - Waqar
At the end of the ninth over bowled by Wahab Riaz, Virat Kohli was taking a break with Yuvraj Singh. The 12th man had come in with drinks. Kohli raised his helmet so that his face was revealed for the first time since he was fielding in the previous innings. And for the first time since he had weathered the four-over Mohammad Amir storm.
Usually expressive, Kohli wore a deadpan look despite taking 15 runs off the just-concluded Riaz over. The facial expression said more about the excruciating focus with which he took on Amir. He didn't look like focusing on the conversation between the India reserve and Yuvraj. He had been concentration personified at that moment when he was bailing India out of a tight spot at 9 for 3.
During that testing period, his face was helmeted so it was hard to tell what he was going through. When he took it off for a minute or two, it showed the residual effect of facing up to a big spell head on.
Before Kohli thwarted Amir and Pakistan, both Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane had known what Amir would do too. But before they could bring their bat down, Amir had scythed through their defenses. Rohit had survived an appeal off the first ball of the India innings before he was beaten for pace and movement again on the next delivery. Rahane was done in the same way, missing a ball that zoomed out of Amir's wrist and darted back in at the last bend.
Amir nearly had Suresh Raina first ball too but took the left-hander's wicket in his next over. Raina gave a simple catch to mid-on after being all at sea, Amir almost doing him a favour.
All Kohli had to do was be wary of the delivery that came back in and the one that jumped on him. But in the circumstances of India losing three wickets in the first 22 balls and the well grassed pitch keeping the batsmen guessing, Kohli was electric at bringing his bat down to Amir bringing the ball in, and alert to getting his bat out of the way whenever it zipped across him.
At the end of the game when players from both sides lined up to shake hands, the two had one hand on each shoulder and exchanged laughs. At the presentation ceremony, Man-of-the-Match Kohli revealed that he had congratulated Amir on the spell during the match itself. Though he top-scored with 49 chasing a target of 84, Kohli may have also won the award because he outlasted Amir.
It may have lasted just 15 balls, but the electric Kohli v Amir contest was the treat of the match, particularly after Pakistan were bowled out in just 17.3 overs, for their lowest T20I total batting first and third lowest overall.
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said that another 30 or 40 runs would have made it into a tighter affair. He said that there was a plan for at least one batsman to stick around but the runouts of Khurram Manzoor and Shahid Afridi didn't help their cause.
"There weren't many runs on the board," Waqar said. "We fought well with our bowling but there weren't enough runs. I think we were 30-40 runs short. The way we bowled, it would have been a better game had we got around 120-125 runs on the board at least.
"Look when you lose six wickets in the first seven overs, who to blame? You can blame everyone. We tried. It is not that we didn't try. We had the plans of someone staying out there but I think also credit should be given to them. Couple of runouts, that didn't help. Nehra has been bowling pretty nicely in this tournament."
Waqar said that Amir is getting better by the day in his comeback trail, and praised the way he swung the ball at high pace, once touching 150 kph.
"Look he is bowling well," Waqar said. "When someone is bowling well, he is always an inspiration for the younger fast bowlers. The way he swung the ball, the pace, the length, it was outstanding.
"He is definitely world class as Virat Kohli also said. He is coming back and coming stronger and stronger. He is getting better and better. He is going to be an asset for Pakistan in the next few years."
Pakistan's immediate worry would be their batsmen, and unless someone can stand up and take on the game like Kohli did, or their own Amir did, a short but sensational spell will always be buried under a batting collapse.