Birmingham: India captain Virat Kohli heads into a Champions Trophy final against arch-rivals Pakistan back on top of the one-day international batting rankings. But the star batsman insists it is the form of the title-holders' opening duo that is giving him confidence in the lead up to Sunday's clash between the sub-continent cricket giants at the Oval.
The 28-year-old Kohli is also top of the tournament batting averages with a scarcely credible mark of 253 — a figure that owes much to the fact that three of his four innings so far have been not outs.
His 96 not out saw Kohli end the match with nearly 10 overs to spare by hitting a four off Sabbir Rahman. But Rohit Sharma was 123 not out at the other end, having shared an unbroken stand of 178 with his skipper. By the time Kohli came in, however, India were well on their way to chasing down a modest victory target of 265 thanks to a brisk opening partnership of 87 between Sharma and left-hander Shikhar Dhawan, who made 46.
"I'm really enjoying the way I'm batting," Kohli told reporters. "For me the number of runs do not matter at this stage. I'm really enjoying the process. The way Rohit and Shikhar batted, it just gave me so much confidence heading out of the changing room. Those two guys really dent the opposition mentally," he explained.
India will now finish the tournament against Pakistan having started their title defence with a 124-run thrashing of their traditional foes in Birmingham under a fortnight ago.
While it may be one of cricket's oldest cliches to label Pakistan "unpredictable", they've done their best to live up to it during this tournament.
After a performance against India even Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur labelled "shambolic", they bounced back to beat top-ranked South Africa.
Pakistan then held their nerve to beat Sri Lanka in what was a virtual quarter-final in Cardiff on Monday.
Two days on, they raised their game still further to inflict a crushing eight-wicket defeat of previously unbeaten tournament hosts England in a semi-final in the Welsh capital.
For all that India's margin of victory was greater, Pakistan's last-four success was arguably even more impressive given they bowled England out for just 211.
"The turnaround has been magnificent," said Kohli of Pakistan's progress. "They've beaten sides that looked really strong against them."
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