Mumbai, Nov 15 (PTI) Virat Kohli's larger than life persona grew even more when he chose the big occasion to conjure up a historic 50th ODI century, propelling India to a massive 397 for four in the World Cup semifinal against New Zealand after it had been subdued by Rohit Sharma's opening onslaught on Wednesday.
While India's two super stars in their own inimitable style flattened the New Zealand attack, Shreyas Iyer too rose to the occasion with a ruthless century in the big game, leaving the Kiwis gasping.
The New Zealand bowlers surprisingly looked at sea against the home batters, who scored boundaries with consummate ease.
Kohli scaled the highest peak in ODI batting and was the centerpiece of India's domination with his third century of this World Cup, scoring 117 off 113 balls with nine fours and two sixes.
He also became the highest run-getter in a single edition of World Cup, again surpassing the legendary Tendulkar (623 run in 2003) "The great man just congratulated me. It feels like a dream. Too good to be true. Big game for us and I played the role so that the guys around me can come and express themselves," Kohli said.
Kohli's feat was witnessed not only by the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, whose record the modern-day great broke but also by batting legends Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards and football legend David Beckham. Complementing Kohli's sustained brilliance was Iyer's 70-ball 105 laced with eight sixes and four fours — a knock that pummelled New Zealand into submission.
If both Kohli and Gill could play their games it was because Rohit's ultra aggressive approach yet again had provided a rollicking start that blew away the pressure of the big game.
It was not a huge score but the way the India captain went about his business in his 29-ball 47-run knock that punctured New Zealand resistance and they could not recover from that.
Gill, who was forced to retire hurt due to severe cramps, did well to come out at the fag end and finished at 80 not out off 66 balls, hammering eight fours and three sixes in the process.
India's score is is now a record total for any team in history of 50-overs World Cup semifinals. Kohli's strokes pierced the field with utmost precision, the running between the wickets was impeccable as ever and the ball seemed to have hit the meatiest part of his bat most of the times after he survived a close leg-before appeal at the start of his innings. The ball was set rolling by ‘captain fearless’ Rohit, who went hammer and tongs from the word go to rip apart New Zealand pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
Having stroked his way to 47 with four sixes and as many boundaries, Rohit got beaten by an off-cutter from Southee that ended his assault.
For Rohit had left New Zealand gasping for breath — the usually composed Kiwis appeared to be scrambling for answers to stop the Indian skipper until Tim Southee found one.
The senior Kiwi bowler produced a smart slower delivery — an off cutter — which lured Rohit to go for another big hit. But this time, he could not connect as well as he had done earlier.
The ball went high in the air but not the distance.
But the credit for the dismissal went to the fielder — Kane Williamson — as much as it did to the bowler. Williamson, stationed at mid off, went behind and sideways to take a stunning catch over his head.
It was, however, the only success that New Zealand enjoyed for the majority of the innings as they kept chasing leather.
In fact, New Zealand made desperate moves early on that showed they were panicking.
Mitchell Santner came on as early as in the sixth over and by the 13th, New Zealand had the rookie Rachin Ravindra tasked with the job to stop the Indians. Glenn Phillips too was tried, but without any success.
A little tentative to start but compelling to watch when he found his groove, Gill's strokes on both the sides of the pitch were simply fabulous to watch. PTI DDV AT DDV AT AT