“Every opportunity to play for India is big one for me. To be able to do that on my birthday, in front of the whole crowd, it’s stuff of dreams, something that as a child you wish had happened,” Kohli said after his record-equalling innings. “I am very grateful to God that I have been blessed with these kinds of moments, so much love from the fans as well and just continue to help the team in any way possible.”
Kohli reached the record-equalling hundred off 119 balls, getting to the milestone in the 49th over of India’s innings by punching Kagiso Rabada to cover for a single in front of a near-capacity crowd at Eden Gardens. While Tendulkar scored his 49th century in his 451st ODI innings, Kohli got there in just his 277th innings in his 289th match. He finished unbeaten on 101 off 121 balls, having steered India to a total of 326.
Kohli began his innings in the sixth over and then India lost Shubman Gill in the 11th, with the score then 93 for 2. “It was a tricky wicket to bat on,” Kohli said. “We got a great start through Rohit [Sharma] and Shubman, and then when I got in, my job was to keep that momentum going, but as soon as the ten overs got over, the ball started gripping and the wicket started slowing down as the ball got older.
“Our roles are different – me and Shreyas [Iyer]we wanted to string in a partnership and to be honest, as soon as we lost Shubman and Rohit within ten overs, my role was to bat deep and bat till the end because that’s what I have done over the years and that’s what the communication from the team was well; I bat and guys bat around me and then Shreyas started hitting a few. So, we were not thinking that we would get 327  but that’s what happens when you dig deep and you take the game into the last few overs then you can get a few more than you thought.”
He and Iyer kept India’s momentum going with a third-wicket stand of 134 off 158 balls. “We had a lot of practice sessions before we went to the Asia Cup. I and Shreyas invariably batted together, because No. 3 and 4, against spinners. And I spoke to him, ‘This is the partnership that has to take centre stage through the middle overs’. So both of us are pretty comfortable rotating the strike against spinners. Whatever loose balls he got, he put them away, credit to him,” Kolhi said. “As I said, when you lose two wickets and don’t have Hardik [Pandya] in your team, you need to bat deep and make sure that you get to a stage where the opposition feels like we have to restrict them, rather than thinking we are one wicket away from 30 runs lesser than what we had to chase. He batted beautifully according to the situation and strike rotation was the key.”
Kohli now has two hundreds in the 2023 World Cup to go with four half-centuries in eight league games so far. He is the second highest run-scorer in the tournament behind South Africa’s Quinton de Kock, his 543 runs coming at an average of 108.60 and strike rate of 88.29. It is the first time he has scored more than 500 runs
in an ODI World Cup.
Kohli’s hundred continues a prolific year for him in the ODI format. He has more than 1000 runs with five centuries in 2023
at an average of 72.18 and strike rate of 99.82. It is the eighth time he has scored more than 1000 ODI runs in a year, surpassing Tendulkar’s record of seven.
With seven wins in seven games, India were the first team to qualify for the World Cup semi-finals, ahead of this top-of-the-table clash with South Africa.
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