The reserve day was added at the last minute perhaps to ensure the broadcaster gets the most out of a marquee clash between India and Pakistan. And the additional day’s play resulted in the broadcaster and the Men in Blue making the most of it.
Not only did India register a facile 228-run win in its opening Super 4s fixture in the Asia Cup against Pakistan, but Rohit Sharma and Co. have ticked virtually all the boxes it desired for, over two days.
If Rohit and Shubman Gill had given India a rollicking start at the R. Premadasa on Sunday, Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul topped it up in a stylish manner. The result was India raced to a gargantuan 356 for two, its joint-highest total against Pakistan in ODIs.
Considering the fact that no team has successfully chased a 301-plus target at the venue, Kohli, who notched up his 47th ODI ton in a nonchalant manner, and Rahul, who registered a stylish hundred on his first competitive outing after a four-month injury lay-off, had virtually batted Pakistan out of the game.
An all-round bowling performance helped India seal the deal with 18 overs to spare. The complete performance saw Kuldeep Yadav, who struggled for rhythm against Nepal in the group stage, bamboozle the Pakistan batters after the pacers had cleaned up the top order.
The day saw two rain breaks. While the first one delayed the resumption of the game by 100 minutes, the second one — with Pakistan reeling at 44 for two in 11 overs — lasted over an hour before the action resumed for India to persist its quest for excellence.
Pakistan, on the other hand, had a forgettable day. After losing Haris Rauf’s services to a strain he had on Sunday, Naseem Shah — the pick of the pacers — also couldn’t complete his full quota. Later in the chase, Agha Salman top-edged a reverse sweep to get a cut near his eye.
On the field though, Kohli, Rahul and Kuldeep were the star acts. While Rahul preferred to earn his runs by balancing strike rotation with the big hits, Kohli was at his best when it came to tiring the bowlers and the fielders simultaneously.
Despite hitting only six fours and two sixes, Kohli had raced to an 84-ball hundred, tapping the ball close to his bat off Shaheen Shah Afridi for a quick single to reach the landmark in the 48th over. The last five overs — despite the duo closing in on the individual landmark — saw India clobber 56 runs, thus helping it cross the 350-run mark.
Once Jasprit Bumrah had forced Imam-ul-Haq to nick one to Gill at second slip, Hardik Pandya bowled the ball of the day to dismiss Babar Azam. The Pakistan captain had no answer to one that jagged back in after pitching to strike into the timber.
Soon after the break, Shardul Thakur proved his utility by seeing Mohammad Rizwan’s back. Then on, for the remaining night, it was a Kuldeep show as the Pakistan middle- and lower-order was made to look mediocre by Kuldeep’s artistry.
With the two injured pacers not taking the field, Kuldeep wound up the game by getting through Faheem Ashram’s defence and earned a deserving fifer. The early finish also gave India additional rest before readying itself for Tuesday’s clash against Sri Lanka.
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