Virat Kohli has sent cricket fans into meltdown after ending an almmost three-year drought by smashing a century for India to equal Aussie great Ricky Ponting's all-time mark.
Kohli, who made his last international century in November 2019 during a Test against Bangladesh, belted 122 runs off just 61 balls to steer India to an emphatic 101-run win over Afghanistan at the Asia Cup.
India were out of contention to play in the tournament decider after losing to finalists Pakistan and Sri Lanka earlier in the competition.
However, Indian fans still had plenty to cheer about as their team's biggest superstar ended an unthinkable 1021-day drought.
Kohli's latest century was the 71st of his international career across all three formats, moving him equal with Ricky Ponting in second on the all-time list.
The moment Virat Kohli silenced his critics and smashed his 71st century and also his maiden T20i hundred. pic.twitter.com/OkzRAWDzqr
— Mufaddal Vohra (@mufaddal_vohra) September 8, 2022
India great Sachin Tendulkar remains the benchmark batter in world cricket, with a staggering 100 international centuries to his name.
Kohli had a chance to open with stand-in captain KL Rahul after regular skipper Rohit Sharma was rested from India's last game in the tournament.
The 33-year-old took the opportunity with both hands as he and Rahul combined for 119 runs off 76 balls before Rahul holed out at long-on after making 62 off 41.
Kohli smacked both Afghanistan pace bowlers Fareed Ahmad (2-57) and Fazalhaq Farooqi (0-51) in the death overs in a stunning display of power-hitting that included some brilliant flicks off his pads.
The India great notched his maiden T20 century in the penultimate over by hitting left-arm fast bowler Ahmed for a boundary and then raised his both arms with a broad smile by smashing a flat six over midwicket.
Kohli, who hit 12 fours and six sixes, provided an ideal finish with two maximums and another boundary against Farooqi.
Teammates applauded as Kohli walked back to the pavilion, with social media erupting as the cricket world celebrated his incredible milestone.
Virat Kohli is finally level with Ricky Ponting on 71 international tons, but Sachin's top spot is still a long way away 💯 pic.twitter.com/UleFNnzdY7
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) September 8, 2022
so finally wait is over great 💯 by king kohli
— Mohammad Amir (@iamamirofficial) September 8, 2022
King Kohli is back and back. He is bloody good. What a player. pic.twitter.com/zoWS6Haiw9
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) September 8, 2022
You can delay class all you want to, don't even think of denying it.
That ton? Worth it's weight in gold. That smile? Priceless. Shine on, champ. @imVkohli
— Sunil Chhetri (@chetrisunil11) September 8, 2022
The wait is over, Virat Kohli completed his 71st International hundred. pic.twitter.com/hPRmxu7fxE
— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) September 8, 2022
— Rumman Raees (@rummanraees15) September 8, 2022
— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) September 8, 2022
Virat Kohli dedicates milestone to his wife
Kohli dedicated his century to wife and Bollywood actress, Anushka Sharma, and the couple's baby girl.
"This hundred is for her and for our little daughter Vamika as well," he said.
"Six weeks off (and) I was refreshed. I realised how tired I was. Competitiveness doesn't allow it, but this break allowed me to enjoy the game again."
Fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled one of best spells in Twenty20 cricket by grabbing 5-4 with his brilliant swing bowling before Afghanistan reached 8-111 and gave India their second-biggest win ever in a T20 international.
"Today, I think was just a build-up of the last few games," Kohli said.
"I actually batted out of my skin to be honest, I surprised myself!"
Afghanistan, who won group games against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, faltered in the Super 4 stage, losing all three of their games.
Ibrahim Zadran top-scored with a gritty unbeaten 64 but the rest of the Afghanistan batting line-up crumbled against Kumar's superb bowling with the new ball.
The one-wicket loss to Pakistan seemed to be still on the minds of Afghanistan's players as Ibrahim dropped Kohli on the boundary edge before he went on to score his half-century off 32 balls.
"Mentally we weren't prepared," conceded Afghanistan skipper Mohammad Nabi, who won the toss and elected to field first.
"We tried our best, but the way KL Rahul and Virat started, it was tough and we dropped some catches as well."
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