What connects England, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and the Netherlands?
Well, nothing, really.
Nothing except the fact that they’re all teams who have been at the receiving end of a brutal assault from the pair of Virat Kohli and Suryakumar Yadav.
Having annihilated four different opponents across the first 11 times they batted together, Kohli and Suryakumar, on Thursday, were tasked with the challenge of gunning down an extremely tidy Netherlands attack on a discernibly slow Sydney wicket.
No prizes for guessing what happened next. As was foreseeable and so inevitable, the pair put on yet another T20 batting masterclass to help India overpower their opponents and make it two in two in the 2022 T20 World Cup.
Since the start of the Asia Cup, Kohli and Suryakumar have almost made it a habit to not just bail the team out of trouble, but make a mockery of the opposition bowling when they bat together. When they get together, they almost leave the bowling side helpless and startled to the extent that the opponent just ends up giving up, having run out of solutions.
On Thursday, Scott Edwards’ Netherlands side felt that.
Despite losing the toss, the Dutch started well. Very well, in fact.
India could manage just 32 runs in the powerplay, and though Rohit accelerated post a scratchy (and fortunate) start, Netherlands still had the game under control at the end of the 12th over, with India going at 7 an over.
In the blink of an eye, however, the game would slip away from them. Courtesy Kohli and Suryakumar, who would end up adding 95 off 48 balls despite the wicket being on the slower side. The onslaught, or more accurately the partnership, all but ended up taking the game away from the Netherlands.
Back in the day in Football, when Arjen Robben played, everyone — the fans, his teammates and opponents — knew what he was going to do when he found himself on the right wing: cut in on his left and go for goal. Everybody knew what he was going to do, but nobody could stop him. Because he was simply that good.
With the Kohli-Suryakumar partnership, it’s kind of the same. Everybody knows what they’re going to do. Kohli will take his time and simply bat through, while Suryakumar takes the attack to the opposition and puts them under pressure. This carries on for the first half of the partnership until Kohli is set. Once he’s got his eye in, he too joins the act.
Suryakumar pretty much conceded this at the end of the game.
“Really enjoying batting with him (Kohli), the thoughts are very clear when we both are batting. If I get a few boundaries earlier then our partnership needs to be stretched and that's what we are doing.”
But for the rare odd occasion, this template is almost always the same.
Yet despite being predictable, together as a pair they are so good and formidable that they simply cannot be stopped.
The main reason: both have nearly every base covered.
Think about it: how do you bowl to this pair? Almost every plan falls flat due to how well these two complement each other.
As a bowling side, you feel Kohli won’t hurt you, and hence there’s an avenue to tie him down with spin. You kind of do it, but it doesn’t matter because you’re bleeding runs at the other end, thanks to Suryakumar pounding the bowling.
You think you can intimidate Suryakumar with pace, but not only do the quicks disappear anyway — thanks to SKY being equally potent vs the pacers — the plan ends up playing into Kohli’s hands. He takes down the quicks, gains momentum and shifts gears.
By the time you realize what’s just happened, both are set, striking boundaries left, right and center. The game has been taken away from you in a flash.
This is what happened with the Netherlands at the SCG.
First, they watched as Kohli batted his way into the partnership while Suryakumar simultaneously got off to a flyer, racing to 26 off his first 12 balls. Then, they watched Kohli get into his groove and go through the gears, going from 32 to 50 in just 8 balls. Finally, they watched as both batters hit top gear and tore the bowling apart, to propel India to 179.
Just like that, in a jiffy, the game slipped away from them.
Nothing to be ashamed about if you’re the Netherlands, though. It has happened to better teams in the past and it will continue to happen in the future, for such is the quality Kohli and Suryakumar possess.
India pretty much had the game in the bag once Kohli and Suryakumar propelled the side to 179 on a slow wicket, and the chase followed a predictable outcome, with them dominating the Dutch from the very first over.
But even in what was a regulation second innings, something important unfolded from an Indian perspective as Axar Patel regained some much-needed confidence, registering figures of 2/18 off his 4 overs. Following the obliteration at the hands of Ifthikar Ahmed at the MCG, Axar badly needed a strong performance and he produced just that, making life hell for the Dutch batters on a two-paced SCG wicket.
Kohli and Suryakumar’s dominance with the bat coupled with the bowlers’ clinical showing in the second innings led skipper Rohit Sharma to hail the victory a ‘near-perfect’ one.
“This was a near-perfect game for us. Won't say we were in a spot of bother at the start, wicket was on the slower side and we couldn't play our shots right at the start. With the ball, we were clinical,” Rohit said.
The ‘near-perfect’ part is an added bonus for India. Crucially now, they have two more points in the bag.
Weather notwithstanding, they are two more wins away from making it to the semi-finals but you just get the feeling that they’ll be eyeing five out of five.
From what we’ve seen of them thus far, there’s no reason to believe they cannot achieve the said objective.