Virat Kohli hit his first international century since November 2019 with a maiden T20 ton for India to lead the team’s 101-run thrashing of Afghanistan in the Asia Cup on Friday.
The star batsman stood unbeaten on 122 off 61 deliveries to power India to 212-2 in Dubai after being put into bat first in their last Super Four match following their elimination from the tournament.
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Seam bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar then returned his T20 best of five wickets for four runs to help limit Afghanistan to 111-8 with Ibrahim Zadran unbeaten on 64.
But the day belonged to Kohli, who hit a four and a six off pace bowler Fareed Ahmad to reach his first India ton in nearly three years — his last hundred coming in a Test against Bangladesh.
His previous best in 103 T20Is was 94 not out since his debut in 2010. Kohli, whose 71st international ton comes after a gap of 1020 days, registered his third 50-plus score in the event, which serves as a tune-up to the T20 World Cup in October-November in Australia.
It was Kohli’s 71st international century, drawing level with Ricky Ponting on the all-time standings, behind only Sachin Tendulkar.
“Today was the build-up of the last few games, I batted out of my skin to be honest and I surprised myself,” Kohli after being named man of the match.
He celebrated with a wave of the bat and smile and said: “So those angry celebrations are a thing of the past. Actually I was shocked. This is the last format I thought (of scoring a century). It was an accumulation of a lot of things.”
Kohli recently spoke about his mental struggles and how he took a month off ahead of this Asia Cup to get back his intensity, which he “faked” during the dry run of form.
“The team has been open and helpful. I know there was a lot of stuff going outside,” he said.
“Six weeks off I was refreshed. I realised how tired I was. Competitiveness doesn’t allow it, but this break allowed me enjoy the game again.”
Called “King Kohli”, he put on an opening stand of 119 with KL Rahul, who made 62, to lay the foundations of the mammoth total as the Afghan bowlers struggled on their second successive day on the field after a heartbreaking loss to Pakistan.
The Indian openers started cautiously before Rahul and Kohli took on the opposition bowlers with a flurry of boundaries in the first six overs.
Kohli survived a dropped catch on 28 by Ibrahim in the deep as the ball popped out of the fielder’s hands for a six and the star batsman then raised his fifty in 32 balls.
Rahul reached his half-century with two straight boundaries off skipper Mohammad Nabi but fell in the next over.
Fareed broke the century stand and two balls later bowled Suryakumar Yadav for six.
The rest of the innings belonged to Kohli who hit the bowlers to all parts of the ground as he surpassed Pakistan’s Mohammad Rizwan as the tournament’s leading run-scorer with 276 in five matches.
“We were happy to see Kohli score a hundred after a long time,” Afghanistan’s assistant coach Raees Ahmadzai told reporters. “And the shots he played, we saw a different Kohli – the way he used to play.” The 33-year-old Kohli, who smashed 12 fours and six sixes in his dominant knock, has also hit 27 Test and 43 ODI centuries in a stellar career.
The Afghans looked jaded after they went down by one wicket to Pakistan and also crash out of the tournament.
They were lost four wickets for just nine runs in three overs with Kumar ripping through the opposition top-order before Ibrahim carried his bat through and made his team bat 20 overs.
Pakistan will play Sri Lanka on Saturday in what will be a dress rehearsal of the title clash on Monday.