Virat Kohli, on the occasion of his 35th birthday, achieved a significant milestone in the realm of cricket. He equaled the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 49 one-day international (ODI) centuries as he masterfully guided India to a resounding victory over South Africa, who are also contenders in the World Cup semi-finals. This feat was accomplished in a pool match held at Kolkata’s prestigious Eden Gardens.
Kohli’s sublime innings saw him reach the landmark of 49 ODI hundreds in 119 deliveries, embellished with 10 elegant fours. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is the comparison to his compatriot and 2011 World Cup winner, Sachin Tendulkar. While it took Tendulkar 438 innings to reach this milestone, Kohli achieved it in 277 innings, underlining his exceptional batting prowess.
Kohli’s unbeaten 101 not out became the centerpiece of India’s formidable total of 326-5, and the team’s potent bowling attack then dismantled South Africa’s batting order, led by Rohit Sharma’s inspired leadership. A pivotal partnership of 134 runs with Shreyas Iyer (who contributed a commendable 77) propelled India after winning the toss.
Fresh from their astounding performance in dismissing Sri Lanka for a mere 55, the lowest total by any Test side in a World Cup, India replicated their dominance, reducing South Africa to a mere 83 runs. This became the Proteas’ second-lowest ODI total, surpassing only their 69 against Australia in 1993. Left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja was the chief tormentor, claiming five wickets for just 33 runs. This emphatic victory secured India’s position at the top of the pool phase standings.
South Africa’s second loss in the pool stage, following a shocking defeat to the non-Test side Netherlands, was a stark reminder of their struggle in the tournament. The gap in performance between the top two teams, especially on Kohli’s birthday, was nothing short of astonishing.
Kohli, maintaining an average of over 108 in the World Cup, expressed his sentiments during the innings break, stating, “Every opportunity to play for India is a big one, and to score a century on my birthday is a dream come true—a childhood aspiration realized.”
In an endearing gesture, Sachin Tendulkar paid tribute to Kohli on social media, saying, “Well played Virat. It took me 365 days to go from 49 to 50 (years old) earlier this year. I hope you go from 49 to 50 and break my record in the next few days. Congratulations.”
The match saw the early dismissal of South Africa’s leading run-scorer in the tournament, Quinton de Kock, who fell for just five runs, playing onto Mohammed Siraj’s delivery. Jadeja further tightened the noose by dismissing Proteas captain Temba Bavuma.
Mohammed Shami, fresh from a spectacular five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka, continued his fine form, sending Aiden Markram back to the pavilion with an exquisite delivery that nipped away to take the outside edge.
Heinrich Klaasen, a key figure in South Africa’s batting lineup, was adjudged leg before by Jadeja, and Rassie van der Dussen was declared lbw by paceman Shami, as the Proteas faltered to 40-5.
On the batting front, Rohit Sharma initiated India’s innings with a stylish 40 before getting caught by Bavuma at mid-off. Kohli, ever the maestro, continued his sublime form with consecutive fours off fast bowler Kagiso Rabada. However, Keshav Maharaj, in just his third ball, delivered a classical left-arm spin to dismiss Shubman Gill for 23, leaving Kohli and Iyer to rebuild the innings. Iyer, known for his explosive batting, departed after a magnificent 82 against Sri Lanka.
Amidst a capacity crowd, Kohli exhibited unwavering composure and determination, with thousands of fans in Eden Gardens illuminating the night sky. His single off Rabada sealed his glorious century, a milestone that etches his name alongside the cricketing legends of the sport.