Virat Kohli and Mohammed Shami celebrate the wicket of New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup semifinal match between India and New Zealand, at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai (PTI Photo/Kunal Patil)
Mumbai: Virat Kohli propelled himself and India to the peak on a euphoric Wednesday night at the Wankhede. He broke the record of Sachin Tendulkar for most centuries in One-Day Internationals, a feat that helped the hosts nail New Zealand and march into Sunday’s World Cup final.
Chasing India’s mammoth 397 for 4, built on the brilliance of Kohli (117), Shreyas Iyer (105), Shubman Gill (80) and Rohit Sharma (47), the New Zealanders put up stiff resistance via a strong third wicket partnership of 181 between Kane Williamson (69) and Daryl Mitchell (134 in 119 balls, 9x4, 7x6) before folding up for 327 in 48.5 overs as Mohammad Shami took 7 for 57.
India await the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal between Australia and South Africa in the title clash at Ahmedabad.
Earlier, Kohli struck his 50th ODI ton at Tendulkar’s home ground to surge past the legend. Emotions came to the fore as he brought up his coveted three-figure mark by turning fast bowler Lockie Ferguson for a brace in the 42nd over of the innings. The 35-year-old leapt high, punched the air, sank to his knees and pondered a bit before regaining composure to get back on his feet. He then took his helmet off, raised his arms and bowed to the legendary Tendulkar, who was up on his feet applauding Kohli’s feat, as the stadium erupted in raucous cheers.
Kohli then blew kisses in the direction of his Bollywood actress wife Anushka Sharma, who reciprocated the gesture from the stands.
The ‘King’ was eventually out in the 44th over after hitting nine boundaries and two sixes in his 113-ball innings.
India were off the blocks with a bang. Opener Rohit raced around like a fast car, slipping into top gear straight away as he drove around his home ground like it was child’s play. The Indian captain picked the Kiwi pacers for special treatment during his 39-ball knock that yielded four boundaries and an equal number of maximums.
In the process, Rohit set a record for most sixes at World Cups, 50, surpassing the all-smashing West Indian Chris Gayle who has 49.
However, he departed soon while trying to force the pace, to be caught by his opposite number Kane Williamson off fast bowler Tim Southee in the ninth over with the team score reading an impressive 71 for 1.
Then, Gill promptly took charge of scoring the runs and began thumping the ball around. He brought the team 100 in the 13th over by despatching speedster Lockie Ferguson into the stands. The opener was going around smoothly and had accelerated the proceedings after reaching his half-century when cramps got to him, forcing the 24-year-old to retire hurt after hitting eight fours and three sixes in his 65-ball innings. India were 164 for 1 in the 23rd over then. He came back towards the end of the innings and added just one more to his score.
Meanwhile, Iyer helped himself to a century as he plundered runs in Kohli’s company. He smashed four boundaries and eight sixes in his rapidfire knock that came off just 70 balls.