The India captain had just been bowled by a leg-break from Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid that pitched on leg stump and spun sharply to hit the top of off.
After standing motionless for several moments, as though he had just seen the bowler levitate as opposed to deceive him with a delivery that had echoes of Shane Warne’s ‘Ball of the Century’ to dismiss Mike Gatting, it was all that Kohli could do to drag himself off.
He looked back ruefully at the wreckage of his wicket, with the off bail still flashing orange as it lay on the ground, and glanced up at a scoreboard that read “V Kohli b Rashid 71”, his departure leaving India 156-4 in the 31st over after Kohli had won the toss and opted to bat in this deciding game of the three-match series.
If ever there was a snapshot of a game, of a series, then that was it; Kohli, the world’s greatest batsman, utterly bamboozled by a ball that might have bamboozled the gods themselves.
It was the first time that the master had been bowled by a leg-spinner in a career spanning 203 ODI innings, which have brought him 35 hundreds and this, his 48th half-century, Kohli’s 71 from 72 balls with eight fours the top score as India totalled 256-8 from their 50 overs, a competitive effort on a spinning pitch.
Rashid took 3-49 from his 10 overs and Yorkshire team-mate David Willey 3-40 from his 10, Mark Wood also impressing with 1-30 from his allocation on a day when Shikhar Dhawan chipped in with 44 from 49 balls and MS Dhoni 42 from 66.
But it was England, the world’s No 1-ranked one-day team, who sealed a 2-1 series triumph over the No 2 side, cruising home by eight wickets with 33 balls to spare as Joe Root (100) and Eoin Morgan (88) shared an unbroken 186, Root eclipsing Marcus Trescothick’s English record of 12 ODI hundreds when he pulled the winning boundary off Hardik Pandya.
On a mostly cloudy and sticky day, with plenty of Indian support among the sell-out crowd, England extended their impressive ODI record at Leeds with their seventh win in their last eight games here dating back to 2008.
After the towelling inflicted by India in the first match of the series at Trent Bridge, followed by the lashing administered by England at Lord’s, it was anyone’s guess as to how this would pan out only for the theme of one-sided contests to continue.
As workmen looked on from the new Emerald Stand, which is starting to shoot up like summer grass, India made a watchful, even ponderous start. They managed only 32 runs in the 10-over powerplay for the loss of Rohit Sharma, who flicked Willey to Wood at backward square-leg.
Willey, bowling from the Emerald Stand end, and Wood were excellent first-up, giving Dhawan and Kohli little to hit.
But their second-wicket stand had reached 71 in 12 overs by the time that Dhawan was run-out, Kohli whipping Moeen Ali to mid-wicket and then belatedly refusing the single with Dhawan halfway down as Ben Stokes swooped.
Kohli responded by reaching 50 from 55 balls when he cut Liam Plunkett to the boundary, shortly after playing one of the deftest shots of the day when he guided the Yorkshire bowler to the third man rope.
Rashid induced Dinesh Karthik to drag on before removing Kohli and Suresh Raina (who was caught at leg slip) with the first and sixth deliveries of his seventh over, India slipping to 158-5.
Wood gained deserved reward when Pandya was caught behind off a ball that moved away and took the edge, Willey returning to have Dhoni caught behind and Bhuvneshwar Kumar well caught by Jonny Bairstow at deep mid-wicket from the final ball of the innings.
When England replied, Bairstow set off like a man intent on winning the match off his own bat.
The Yorkshireman took Kumar for four boundaries in his second over, the third of the innings, and then smashed three fours in the next over delivered by Pandya.
The assault was breathtaking, but came to an abrupt end with the total on 43-1 in the fifth over when Bairstow clipped Shardul Thakur to Raina at mid-wicket, having thrashed 30 from 13 balls.
James Vince, playing his first ODI since October 2016 after Jason Roy was ruled out with a finger injury, contributed a run-a-ball 27 before being run-out by Pandya after Root pushed leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s first ball out to mid-wicket.
Root, who made 113 when India previously visited Headingley for an ODI in 2014, had made an identical score in the second match of this series at Lord’s on Saturday.
He barely broke sweat in this innings, which comprised 120 balls and included 10 fours, while Morgan – who faced 108 balls and hit nine fours and a six - was equally assured.