Virat Kohli’s, rich vein of form continued on Sunday as the Indian captain smashed his 36th ODI fifty in India’s eight-wicket win over West Indies in the first ODI of the five-match series at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati.
Kohli, who returned to the Indian side to play the two-match Test series versus West Indies after missing the Asia Cup in UAE, looked unfazed and untroubled in the 50-over format, despite not playing a limited-overs match since July 17, where he smashed 71 against England in the last ODI of the three-match series in Leeds.
The Indian captain came out to bat after the fall of Shikhar Dhawan’s wicket in the second over in India’s chase of 323. With the score on 10/1 after two overs and debutant Oshane Thomas breathing fire, the requirement was to play sensible cricket and build an innings.
But, the 29-year-old had other plans.
Kohli came out all guns blazing and attacked both Thomas and Kemar Roach. Thomas, who was bowling with pace, was smashed around the park and that threw him off his length and after conceding 36 runs from four overs, he was taken off the attack by Jason Holder.
Kohli’s attacking show allowed Rohit Sharma to settle in and play his natural game as his partner on the other end was taking care of the run-rate…something that Dhawan does when the two open together.
He reached his 49th half-century off 35 balls with a cut over the point fielder Chandrapaul Hemraj of the bowling off Ashley Nurse. Replays later showed that the ball was just 5 cm above Hemraj and that was probably the only time he came close to getting out.
Following the fifty, he slowed down but made sure the scoreboard kept ticking and India never lagged back. He paced innings very well as the spinners slowed the games down and made it difficult for the Indian batsmen to score runs.
But, he never allowed the strike-rate to dip below the 100 and kept piling on the runs with singles, twos and the odd boundary. Kohli did present another opportunity to get his wicket but it was a difficult opportunity for Rovman Powell and he failed to grab it in the 26th over of the bowling off Nurse again.
However, he brought up his 36th ODI ton in the 27th over with a boundary off Roach as India marched on in their chase.
The hundred was Kohli’s fourth in ODIs in 2018. He had earlier smashed three centuries against South Africa in January.
With the century, he reached the landmark of 60 international hundreds (36 in ODIs and 24 in Tests) and became the fastest to do so. He reached the landmark in 386 innings, taking 40 innings fewer than Sachin Tendulkar.
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This was also Kohli’s 22nd hundred while chasing a target in ODI cricket.
Kohli now has 14 centuries as a captain in ODIs and is second in the list behind Ricky Ponting, who has 22 while leading Australia.
But, Kohli didn’t stop at his hundred. He continued to dominate the bowlers and marched towards 150 but ultimately fell 10 short of it. Kohli missed a Bishoo leg-break and dragged his feet outside and wicketkeeper Shai Hope stumped him out for 140.
His innings was studded with 21 boundaries and two sixes.
In the course of the innings, Kohli also made the record books. He completed 2000 runs in a calendar year for the third consecutive year when he was on 42. He became the fourth player to do so after India’s Sachin Tendulkar (1996-98), Australia’s Matthew Hayden (2002-04) and England’s Joe Root (2015-17).
Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara (6) has scored 2000 plus runs the most in a calendar year and he is followed by Tendulkar (5), Mahela Jayawardene (5) and Kohli (5). However, he is the first Indian captain to score over 2000 runs in two consecutive years.
Kohli’s batting has only grown better over the last five years. Barring an odd year in 2015, Kohli has dominated with the bat in ODIs. In 2014, he scored 1054 runs from 21 matches at an average of 58.56. In 205, he scored 623 runs from 20 games at an average of 36.65. In 2016 and 2017, he smashed 739 runs from 10 games and 1460 runs from 26 matches respectively.
And in 2018, he has scored 888 runs already and India are still playing four more ODIs (all vs West Indies) till the end of the year.
He is currently third in the list of most runs scored in ODIs behind Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root. Bairstow has 1025 runs from 22 matches while Root has 904 from equal number of games.>