India superstar Virat Kohli has hit a record 50th century in one-day internationals, describing his landmark as the “perfect picture” as he surpassed the mark he shared with countryman Sachin Tendulkar at the World Cup.
Kohli raised his arms then sank to his knees and bowed to the fans with his helmet off on Wednesday after reaching three figures in the hosts’ eventually emphatic semi-final triumph against New Zealand at the Wankhede stadium.
He was 100 not out after facing 106 balls in what had been a virtually chanceless innings to that point.
The 50-year-old Tendulkar, the highest run-scorer in ODI and Test cricket, was in the crowd in Mumbai to see the latest landmark reached by Kohli, who was eventually dismissed for 117 and applauded off the field by India’s fans.
The 35-year-old Kohli, nicknamed “The King” in India and arguably the world’s most famous cricketer, was appearing in his 279th match in ODIs after making his debut in the 50-over format in 2008.
It was his third century at this World Cup, which he is making his own. He’s now scored 711 runs in this edition, the most by any batter in a men’s World Cup, surpassing Tendulkar’s 673 in 2003. His eight scores of 50-plus is also a record for a single tournament.
“It’s stuff of dreams, Anushka (his wife) was sitting right there, Sachin paaji was there in the stands,” Kohli said in the innings break.
“It’s very difficult for me to explain this, but if I could paint the perfect picture, I would want this to be the picture.
“My life partner, the person I love the most, she’s sitting there. My hero, he’s sitting there. And I was able to get the 50th in front of all of them and all these fans at Wankhede as well, such a historic venue. It was amazing.”
He finished the group stage as the top run-scorer in the tournament with 594 and averaging exactly 99.
Tendulkar scored his 49th hundred in his 451st ODI innings, and Kohli equalled that landmark in just 277 innings – and now he’s broken it in his 279th innings.
“I said it in Kolkata, the great man (Tendulkar) just congratulated me, all this feels like a dream for me, honestly,” Kohli said.
“It’s too good to be true, feels surreal, I never thought I’ll be here ever in my career. Just to help the team so many times, again, a big game today, I had to kind of play the role I’ve played throughout the tournament so that the guys around me can go and express themselves.
“Just glad that everything came together so nicely and we put up a great total on the board as well.”
Ultimately, inspired by Kohli’s brilliance again, India’s mammoth 4-397 proved too much for New Zealand, who responded spiritedly before finally being bowled out for 327, with Mohammed Shami taking seven wickets and pipping the former captain to the player of the match award.
Kohli’s 117 and a blistering 105 from Shreyas Iyer helped India blast to just under 400 after they won the toss at the Wankhede Stadium, where the hosts had lifted their second and last 50-over World Cup trophy in 2011.
In reply, New Zealand, who beat India at the same stage in the 2019 tournament, made a brave fist of the chase but were eventually bundled out in the 49th over with Daryl Mitchell’s excellent innings of 134 proving all in vain.
Australia and South Africa will meet in the second semi-final at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Thursday, with the final on Sunday in Ahmedabad.
Mitchell added 181 for the third wicket with Kane Williamson to keep the Black Caps firmly in the chase but Shami, who sent back both openers, returned to dismiss the New Zealand captain and Tom Latham in one over to put India on top.
The right-handed Mitchell suffered cramps after getting past his hundred but continued to plunder runs with Glenn Phillips during a 75-run stand before the latter fell for a 33-ball 41.
The target ultimately proved too steep, as the Indian juggernaut rolled on for their 10th win in as many matches in the 50-over showpiece.
Shami finished with figures of 7-57, his third five-wicket haul in the tournament.
Iyer’s blistering 105, which came off 70 balls and was studded with four fours and eight sixes, provided the late fireworks for India.
India captain Rohit Sharma, who made 47, gave the hosts a rollicking start in a 71-run opening stand with Shubman Gill.
Gill retired hurt due to leg cramps but returned to resume his innings and finished unbeaten on 80.