When Virat Kohli accepted the man of the match award on Friday it was the second gift he had received in quick succession.
With the scores level in the World Twenty20 semi-final against South Africa, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni could not have asked for a more innocuous delivery as left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks sent down a slow, short ball to conclude the 19th over.
Dhoni, who has a penchant for hitting the winning runs with a six, instead offered a defensive shot that appeared to baffle Kohli as he gestured to his smiling skipper from the other end.
Kohli then smashed the first ball of the final over from fast bowler Dale Steyn for four to seal a six-wicket triumph with five balls to spare.
“Yes, he gave me the chance (to score the winning runs),” the Delhi batsman told reporters after finishing unbeaten on 72 as India reached their victory target of 173. “I told him, ‘You finish it off’.
“But he said, ‘What else can I give you? You’ve batted well in this match. This is my gift’.
“I said, ‘That’s very kind of you’. I accepted it, why not? Scoring the winning runs always feels different. I’m grateful to him that he let me finish it off.”
Kohli once again showed the poise and skill that has made him the mainstay of India’s batting.
A player with a silky touch, he said his performance could not have come at a better time.
“I’ve hit the ball better on other occasions, my timing has also been better on a few occasions. But considering the situation and the occasion it’s definitely my top Twenty20 innings,” Kohli said.
South Africa captain Faf du Plessis was also full of praise for the Indian.
“It was a fantastic knock. We all know how good he is. We all know he has shown that so many times,” said Du Plessis.
“As a fielding captain you always have at the back of your mind that Virat is a real danger, a real threat.
“He paced his knock really well and he saw them home. He is a really good batsman and he played some really good shots.”
India now meet Sri Lanka in Sunday’s final.
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