All-round India thump hapless Pakistan

The Indian team came up with a clinical performance in their CT opener © AFP

4.5 overs into Pakistan’s chase of 324 in 48 overs, rain intervened for third time during their much-awaited ICC Champions Trophy 2017 clash against arch rivals India in Birmingham. Pakistan’s revised target was now 289 in 41 overs, and needed to score at around 7.5 runs every over hence.

For the next 17 overs, Pakistan could score more than that required run rate only twice. By then, Pakistan had lost their top three batsmen and the required rate had climbed to nearly 10 an over. Not surprisingly, they capitulated soon after and succumbed to a 124-run defeat in a rain-marred encounter.

It was a day of gross miscalculations for Pakistan as they got their Champions Trophy campaign off to a disastrous start. They had let the advantage slip when they contrived to bowl spinners to Virat Kohli when he’d just walked in. The conditions were crying out for a pacer who could trouble the India captain, but Sarfraz Ahmed stuck to his plans and opted to bowl Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan. The spin pair bowled well, but it also allowed Kohli to set himself a platform that he could exploit at the end.

Kohli, once he had got his eye in, had struggled to get the bowlers away in his typical free-flowing style. The long rain break did not help matters either, and Pakistan failed in trying to get him when he was at his most vulnerable. He did offer Pakistan a chance, but was given a reprieve that he made the most of. Kohli made up for a sluggish period before the death overs with some scintillating strokeplay in the end. Just like with Kohli, Pakistan also put down a straight-forward chance off Yuvraj Singh, and the left-hander also made them pay with a brutal 29-ball fifty.

In the 45th over, Kohli had crawled to 46 off 58 balls, and Pakistan looked set to restrict India to around 280-290. But the India captain combined with Yuvraj to wallop 72 runs off the last four overs to give India a mammoth total in their allotted 48 overs – 319 for 3.

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Chasing an already tough target, Pakistan made matters tougher for themselves with some poor application and batting. The batsmen were neither willing to take risks nor capitalise on the fielding restrictions in place. Azhar Ali showed some intent, while Ahmed Shehzad struggled to get 12 off 22 balls as Pakistan scored at less than five an over.

It was almost as if they had resigned themselves to defeat seeing the tough target. Ali notched up a fifty, but scored at a strike rate of just above 75. Mohammad Hafeez, during his 43-ball stay, too struck at a similar rate. Shoaib Malik, who walked in at No. 5, seemed more attuned to the situation before he was run out thanks to a brilliant fielding effort by Ravindra Jadeja.

At 131 for 5 in the 27th over, the match was as good as over. Sarfraz Ahmed (15) and Shadab Khan (14) were the only other batsmen to get into double digits as Pakistan folded for 164, handing India a massive 124-run win.

The result may suggest an overwhelmingly one-sided affair, but until Yuvraj and Kohli exploded, there was parity. Pakistan’s bowlers, barring the woefully out-of-form Wahab Riaz, had kept the Indian batters in check. But to India’s credit, none of the batsmen in the top order yielded to the pressures of not scoring quickly and throwing their wickets away.

Rohit Sharma was not his usual self. He was tested by a tight first over from Mohammad Amir, and was found himself struggling for large periods of his knock. At the other end, however, Shikhar Dhawan ensured his partner was not under too much pressure by stroking a quick-fire half century off 48 balls. The left-hander was out, hitting a full toss from Shadab Khan to deep mid wicket, for 68 off 65, but his opening alliance of 136 (24.3 overs) with Rohit Sharma had given India its base.

Rohit was run out on 91 (119 balls) after his dive at the striker’s end resulted in the bat bouncing while the keeperr broke the stumps, but it gave India the chance to unleash Yuvraj on the opposition. The left-hander looked in great touch, combining finesse and power to crack a fifty off just 29 balls and take the game further away from Pakistan.

Buoyed by his senior partner’s efforts, Kohli too went berserk. He slammed 36 off his last 11 balls, ending the innings not out on 81, while Hardik Pandya applied the finishing touches with three consecutive sixes off the last over.

For Pakistan, it was a day to forget, and something that was exacerbated by injuries to two frontline bowlers. Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz had walked off the field during the final stages with leg injuries. That maybe a cause for worry for Pakistan, but after their performance on Sunday (June 4), the side will look at pressing the reset button and ticking the boxes one by one.

Brief scores

India 319/3 in 48 overs (Rohit Sharma 91, Virat Kohli 81, Shikhar Dhawan 68, Yuvraj Singh 53; Shadab Khan 1-52) beat

Pakistan 164 in 33.4 overs (Azhar Ali 50, Mohammad Hafeez 33; Umesh Yadav 3-30, Ravindra Jadeja 2-43, Hardik Pandya 2-43) by 124 runs (DLS method).