Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli clinch T20 World Cup title for India

Rohit Sharma's team hold their nerves to defeat South Africa by seven runs in exhilarating final in Barbados

India ended their decade long wait for a major title as they kept their cool in a sensational clash against South Africa, securing a narrow seven-run win in the T20 World Cup final in Barbados on Saturday.

Virat Kohli had struggled the entire tournament but reserved his best for the last as he hit a composed 76 from 59 balls to help post a competitive 176-7.

In reply, South Africa started poorly but then accelerated in the middle overs brilliantly. Quinton de Kock (39) and Tristian Stubbs (31) put them back on track before Heinrich Klaasen threw the game wide open by smashing 52 from 27 balls.

The Proteas needed just 30 from 30 balls with their first ever world title there for the taking. Hardik Pandya then brought India back into the contest, getting Klaasen out caught behind.

The Indian seamers then turned up the heat in the death overs as the equation became tougher for the Proteas.

Jasprit Bumrah gave away just two runs in the 18th over and Arshdeep Singh just four in the penultimate over. That meant Pandya got to bowl the last over with 16 needed and the dangerous David Miller (21) on strike.

Miller hit a full toss first ball down the ground where Suryakumar Yadav took an acrobatic catch at the boundary ropes under extraordinary pressure, jumping back inside the boundary ropes at the right time. Pandya then kept it under control against the tailenders, finishing with 3-20 as India won the title, also becoming the first team to win a T20 title unbeaten throughout the tournament.

South Africa finished on 169-8, with pacers Jasprit Bumrah (2-18) and Arshdeep Singh (2-20) delivering when it mattered.

Kohli had to dig deep to score the runs when it mattered the most, having struggled throughout. In the end, it turned out to be a title winning effort. After the match, Kohli announced that it was his last T20 International in India colours.

“This was my last T20 game playing for India,” player-of-the-match Kohli said following India’s victory.

“Time for the next generation to take the T20 game forward. This was my last T20 World Cup and this is exactly what we wanted to achieve. It was an amazing game. One day you feel like you can’t get a run but one day, things just click. It hasn’t quite sunk in for me yet.”

After an emotional win, captain Rohit Sharma lauded his team for getting across the finish line after two failed attempts in the last 12 months – the World Test Championship and ODI World Cup finals.

“Hard to sum up what we’ve been through in last three-four years. A lot of high-pressure games, and we have been on the wrong side of it. Guys understand when the pressure is on what needs to be done, today was perfect example. We stuck together with our backs to the wall,” the opener said.

Earlier, Kohli held the innings together with his best knock of the tournament. India had started poorly, losing captain Rohit Sharma and Rishabh Pant in the second over bowled by Keshav Maharaj.

But delivered when it mattered the most, making a hard-fought 76 at the Kensington Oval on Saturday.

Kohli and Axar put on a partnership of 74 which was the foundation of a challenging total before Shivam Dube helped step the tempo up at the end with 27 off 16 balls.

Kohli, who had come into the final averaging just 10.71, made the perfect start by hitting three fours off the opening over from Marco Jansen.

Kohli was looking in control but needed support after Suryakumar lasted just four balls before he holed out to Klaasen at deep square-leg off Kagiso Rabada.

Kohli and Axar were then motoring along nicely and the 100 came up off 82 balls with Axar smashing Rabada over long-on for six.

South Africa needed to break up the partnership and they got the breakthrough with De Kock running non-striker Axar (47) out while looking for a quick single.

Kohli took a long time to reach his fifty – from 48 balls – before he launched the next ball from Rabada over long-on for six.

Kohli finally went in the 19th over caught by Rabada at long-on after hitting six fours and two sixes in his 59-ball innings.

In the end, Kohli’s masterful innings proved enough to secure victory. It was an emotional day for the Indians with many in tears, including Pandya and captain Sharma.

It was a bitter end for South Africa who had reached their first World Cup final after ending a streak of seven defeats in semi-finals in both World Cup formats.

“Gutted for the time being, it’ll take some time to reflect on a really good campaign, hurts quite a bit but incredibly proud,” said captain Aiden Markram.

“We bowled well, not a lot to work with, it was a chaseable total, batted well, came down to the wire, gutted not to get over the line.

“Things happen quickly at the back end, but got into a great position to prove we were worthy finalists.”

Source: The National News

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