Under Manchester skies, bright one moment, brooding the next second, India found its sunshine at Old Trafford here on Sunday. In their World Cup clash against Pakistan, Virat Kohli’s men proved they are far too superior with an 89-run triumph.
Rohit Sharma’s masterly 140 (113b, 14x4, 3x6), his second in the current championship, helped India post 336 for five. Though the Indian innings suffered a one hour break when the skies opened up at 1.45 p.m., Kohli’s merry bunch placed at 305 for four in 46.4 overs, cruised upon resumption.
Later, Pakistan scored 166 for six in 35 overs but following another rain-intervention, the target as per the Duckworth-Lewis method was pegged at 302 from 40 overs. Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men finished with 212 for six.
During Pakistan’s reply that was delayed by another drizzle, openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman were watchful. India then had a bitter-sweet moment as Bhuvneshwar Kumar retreated to the dressing room with a left hamstring strain. Vijay Shankar stepped in to complete the over and with his first ball in a World Cup, struck Imam on his pad and in line with the stumps.
Much hinged on Zaman and Babar Azam and the duo built a 104-run second-wicket partnership. Jasprit Bumrah offered width and the batsmen also tucked into Shankar, Hardik Pandya, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Zaman survived a stumping appeal but India found its breakthrough when Kuldeep slipped one through Babar’s defence. The chinaman then snapped up Zaman.
More was to follow when Pandya scalped Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. Pakistan had lost four wickets for a mere 12 and India was on top. Once Shankar dismissed Sarfaraz and another shower descending upon the turf, India was well ahead. Pakistan could never compete in the remainder of the pursuit.
Earlier the day dawned bright, suffered a drizzle and once the droplets paused, Sarfaraz won the toss and elected to field. After the national anthems were played, Kohli put an arm around Rohit and patted K.L. Rahul. The last two named emerged as India’s openers. Mohammad Amir commenced the attack and Rahul played out a maiden over.
It was the lull before the storm. Rohit, who nearly dragged a Hassan Ali delivery onto his stumps, eased his nerves once he drove the seamer and pulled Amir’s bouncer. Amir, warned twice for running onto the danger-area, bowled a nagging line but the pressure he built, was dissipated at the other end. Rohit cut Ali and when the seamer erred down the leg-side, the mighty willow-wielder pulled a six.
A run-out seemed a probable deal-breaker and one almost happened but Rohit survived and he instantaneously square-drove Wahab Riaz for four. India was 53 for no loss in 10 overs and it was time to consolidate. Rahul (57) shed his twitchiness and launched into the spinners. Imad Wasim was swept and Shadab Khan got cut. When leg-spinner Shadab gifted a full-toss, Rohit tucked into it like a hungry Mumbaikar relishing his pav bhaji and the six smacked of disdain.
Sarfaraz swapped his seven bowlers but there was no respite as Rahul greeted Malik with a six. When Riaz returned for his second spell, he was warned for running onto the danger area. The left-arm speedster switched to around the wicket and Rahul perished in the inner circle but by then the lanky batsman had added 136 for the opening wicket.
When Kohli arrived, the acoustic limits were breached. The Indian captain stole his singles and twos besides etching fours and when Rohit reached his ton, Kohli dispensed a warm hug and India was in batting paradise. Rohit and Kohli shared a 98-run second-wicket partnership which concluded when the former scooped Ali to Riaz at short fine-leg. The rain-intermission affected Kohli’s rhythm but Pandya dished out a cameo while M.S. Dhoni missed out on the run-feast. Yet, by then, India had done enough to acquire pole position.
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