India's Virat Kohli, left, raises his bat and helmet to celebrate scoring a century during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Afghanistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022 | Photo: AP/PTI
Dubai: The long wait for a Virat Kohli hundred, 989 days to be precise, ended on Thursday when he struck a high-quality 122 to take India to 212 for two against Afghanistan and lighten up the dead rubber of the Asia Cup here.
His unbeaten effort off 61 balls got him his first hundred since November 2019 and 71st overall, equalling Ricky Ponting's tally of international hundreds. He is now only behind Sachin Tendulkar in the all-time list.
With Rohit Sharma being rested for India's final game of the tournament, stand-in skipper K L Rahul (62 off 41) and Kohli shared an entertaining 119 off 76 balls for the opening wicket.
Kohli started toying with the field and bowlers towards the end of the innings, enough indication that he was back to his best. The knock from Rahul was his most confident one ever since he came back from injury.
The openers played brilliantly against the spinners, including Rashid Khan (0-33), an area they needed to address heading into the T20 World Cup.
It was vintage Kohli on display as he stepped out to the spinners, pierced the field perfectly and even played a rare sweep shot.
That sweep shot came in the sixth over bowled by Mujeeb Ur Rehman. The next ball he came down the track to hit a straight six. The former India captain also got lucky on his way to a memorable hundred as he was dropped in the deep off Mohammad Nabi in the eight over.
With India at 87 for no loss in 10 overs and Kohli on song, India looked set for a massive total.
It was raining boundaries in the last five overs as Kohli reached the elusive three figure mark with a crisp pull shot off pacer Fareed Ahmed. He took his helmet off and smiled before kissing his necklace as part his celebration.
He ended the innings in style by smashing two sixes and a four off Fazalhaq Farooqi to push India past 200.