Kohli blitz lifts India to victory in Pakistan cliffhanger

MELBOURNE, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Virat Kohli smashed a stunning half-century to lift India to a four-wicket win on the final ball against arch-rivals Pakistan in a classic T20 World Cup match on Sunday that unfolded in front of a massive Melbourne Cricket Ground crowd.

Ravichandran Ashwin struck the winning run as spin-bowling all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz had a final over to forget but it was Kohli's unbeaten 82 and a 113-run partnership with Hardik Pandya (40) that proved decisive as India chased down 160.

Pakistan had seemed on track for a morale-boosting win after India crumbled to 31 for four just after the powerplay.

Man-of-the-match Kohli had other ideas, however, as he went ballistic with the bat in the final overs to bring India home in front of 90,293 screaming fans and millions more watching around the world.

"Well, it's a surreal atmosphere. I honestly have no words. I have no idea how that happened," Kohli said.

"Hardik kept telling me, just believe we can stay 'till the end. I'm lost for words."

Kohli thrashed back-to-back sixes in the penultimate over against Haris Rauf to bring India back into the game and leave Nawaz a sitting duck, with Pakistan's seamers having completed their overs.

Though Nawaz had Pandya caught first ball and wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik stumped, he gifted India two wides and a no-ball.

On the fourth ball, Kohli struck the no-ball for six to earn a free hit and push India within six runs of victory.

Crumbling under the pressure, Nawaz then bowled a wide to give Kohli another free hit.

The drama continued as Nawaz bowled Kohli on the free hit but the ball ricocheted off the stumps allowing India's batsmen to sprint for three byes.

After Karthik's dismissal, Ashwin came to the crease and coolly let Nawaz hang himself with another wide ball before hitting over the in-field to complete the win, sending Indian fans into a frenzy.

"When you have guys like those batting in the middle you always believe that you're going to get the scores," said India captain Rohit Sharma.

"It was probably one of the best I've witnessed, the partnership, and obviously Virat was brilliant.

"It's not easy when you have to bowl the last over when you're a spinner."

It was a cruel finish for Pakistan, who had rallied through half-centuries to Shan Masood (52 not out) and Iftikhar Ahmed (51).

They helped Babar Azam's side to a defendable total of 159 for eight after Pakistan lost the toss and started poorly with the bat.

"All credit to Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli," said Babar.

"They shifted the momentum and finished the game well ... We had a chance, and we just asked the boys to believe in themselves, but again credit to Virat Kohli."

Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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