Supreme India in seventh heaven, smash Pak

HIT-MAN: India’s Rohit Sharma smacks one to the boundary during his match-wining innings of 140 against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Sunday. Reuters

India started their match without one of their regular openers in injured Shikhar Dhawan and lost their key bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar after the paceman had bowled just 2.4 overs due to tight left hamstring, but they still proved too good for a listless Pakistan who weren’t even worthy of the hype this contest got.

The 89-run defeat via DLS method helped India maintain their stranglehold over Pakistan in the World Cup, the winning streak increasing to 7-0 here at the packed Old Trafford on Sunday which saw several rain interruptions but wasn’t disruptive enough to ensure another no-result. Before the final stoppage, Pakistan were 166/6 in 35 overs and when the play resumed, the target was revised to 302 from 40 which meant Pakistan had to score an impossible 136 from five overs. Pakistan finished at 212/6.

India thus moved to third place with seven points with three wins and a washout while Pakistan remained on three points from five matches and their hopes of making the knockouts are as good as over now.

Chasing India’s imposing total of 336/5, amassed on the back of Rohit Sharma’s 24th career century (140, 113b, 14x4, 3x6), Pakistan needed a good start which they didn’t get. They had the worst power play score of the tournament yet, playing 42 dot balls. They did have a 100-plus partnership for the second wicket between Fakhar Zaman (62) and Babar Azam (48) but were woefully behind the required run-rate. And it was always going to be difficult to catch with an asking rate of just over eight runs an over.

Just when they were looking to change the gears, Kuldeep Yadav (2/32) pegged them back with wickets in successive overs with a beautiful piece of left-arm wrist spin bowling. Soon, Pandya got into the act taking two successive wickets of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik. From 117/1, Pakistan had slipped to 129/5 in the space of 13 balls, effectively killing the game as a contest.

The Indian supporters had already turned Manchester into Mumbai and it didn’t take too long for Rohit to convert the Old Trafford into Wankhede as Pakistan unravelled against India in World Cup. With K L Rahul (57, 78b, 3x4, 2x6) successfully slipping into Dhawan’s role, and Virat Kohli reeling off another half-century (77, 65b, 6x4), India posted their second 300-plus score in the tournament despite managing just 33 runs from the last five overs.

Pakistan opted to insert India in but their bowlers weren’t just up to the task against the in-form Indian batsmen. They first consolidated in the first 10 overs, working the innings in just about right pace before pressing on the accelerator. It was meticulously planned and expertly executed that has made this Indian batting so intimidating in the last few years.

Rahul, naturally, was a bit cautious to begin with but Rohit didn’t need much time to shift into top gear. Though his first boundary was an unconvincing inside-edged four to fine-leg off Hasan Ali, the rest of the innings was embellished with authoritative stroke play. The Indian vice-captain was particularly severe on Ali who was taken for 26 runs in his first three overs.

Mohammad Amir (3/47), who started with a maiden over to Rahul, was excellent throughout but the other bowlers just didn’t measure up to captain’s expectations. They were erratic and kept feeding to Rohit’s strengths. They often stayed in their lines and lengths, bowling short and wide only for Rohit to dispatch them to the boundary.

He took a mere 34 balls (7x4, 1x6) to reach his fifty but slowed down a bit in the second half of his century. He was once again racing along after reaching his 24th career hundred, clobbering 40 off just 13 balls when a poorly executed paddle scoop was caught at short fine-leg. Kohli continued his rich vein of form, raking up another half-century and adding 98 runs for the second wicket that further bolstered the innings.

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