Over 17.1: Kagiso Rabada to Virat Kohli, ball delivered at 141.6 kph at a good length and on middle-leg stump. India need 21 off 20 balls. Kohli makes his trademark trigger movement, gets into position early and brings his wrists down with vengeance. The delightful flick shot flies behind square leg for a six. 

Jaws, around the stadium and in living rooms across the country, drop in awe.

After his match-winning 72* (off just 52 balls), Virat Kohli has now scored more Twenty20 International runs than any other batsman. His strike rate is a very healthy 135-plus. He averages more than 50 in this format once again, and is currently the only player in the world to do so across all three formats.

But one thing, more than anything else, stood out from that Kohli innings in Mohali on Wednesday. Including that stunning afore-mentioned shot off Rabada’s bowling, Kohli hit three sixes in the second T20I against South Africa to go with his four fours. Only twice in his 71-match T20I career has Kohli hit more sixes in one innings.

Roll back your memories a little over three years ago, as Kohli himself did a few days back and, inadvertently, caused a national meltdown. Against Australia, in a must-win World T20 match, he played one of his best white-ball knocks to take India past the finish line at this very venue. A 51-ball 82* where he hit nine fours, two sixes and ran between the wickets like there was no tomorrow.

Kohli said recently that he has not spoken enough about that innings, which he called one of his best. It certainly was a spectacle to see him grab the run-chase by the scruff of the neck and produce such a high intensity innings that Australia were looking lost on the field, unable to figure out where to bowl to keep him quiet. He did the simple things brilliantly: pierce the gaps with dabs and drives, tap the ball into the empty spaces, never taking the foot off the pedal when he got going.

In many ways, this innings against South Africa was a perfect call-back to that World T20 innings.

Player Matches (inns) Runs HS Ave SR 100s/ 50s
V Kohli  71 (66) 2441 90* 50.85 135.91 0/22
RG Sharma  97 (89) 2434 118 32.45 136.66 4/17
MJ Guptill  78 (75) 2283 105 33.57 132.42 2/14
Shoaib Malik 111 (104) 2263 75 30.58 124.06 0/7
BB McCullum  71 (70) 2140 123 35.66 136.21 2/13

Sure enough, the match started with Sanjay Manjrekar reminding Kohli of that innings at the toss and ended with Kohli reminiscing about it when he was declared the player of the match. Unfortunately for South Africa, the target they posted in this match was nowhere near good enough with Kohli in this form.

There was some concern over the Indian captain’s fitness when he walked off the field late in the first innings, holding his problematic back after he felt something while throwing the ball from the deep. But he walked in at No 3 and eased those concerns right away; just as he eased a full ball on his pads through midwicket for four off Dwayne Pretorius.

It was a sign of things to come. A couple of deliveries later, he played another trademark, on-the-up cover drive for four off Andile Phehlukwayo. Three overs later, just to show there is more than one way to milk a cow, he stepped down the track against Andrich Nortje and hit a six over long off.

He didn’t need to at that point; he just wanted to.

And from there on, till he got to 47, there was not a boundary hit. (Take note: Rishabh Pant). By the time he was on 47, the run-chase was under control and it was a question of when and not if India will win. And once the end-game was near, he shifted gears again.

First, two boundaries off Phehlukwayo by stepping down the track and then staying deep in the crease. Two shots that were timed better than a Swiss clock.

And in the 19th over, a six down the ground off debutant Bjorn Fortuin as if to say: good try bringing on a rookie now, Quinton.

But, on a night filled with sensational strokeplay from the Indian captain, the six off Rabada will stay in memory for a long time. Just like that six he hit off Chris Woakes during a run-chase in Pune that defied logic. Just like that four he hit during the recent tour of West Indies that made Viv Richards, like an excited little kid, say: I want that!

If making the sensational look simple was an art, Kohli is its Leonardo da Vinci.

If cricketing perfection exists, it will live happily ever after in that flick of the wrists.