For the eleventh time, India defeated Pakistan in an ICC event, this time outclassing them by six wickets at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Saturday. After restricting Pakistan to 118/5 in the rain-truncated match, India romped home to victory with Virat Kohli top-scoring with a 37-ball 55.
Chasing 119, India got off to a good start after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan carefully negotiated Mohammed Amir’s first over before the former took a liking to Mohammed Irfan’s short of a length balls. But Amir’s second over ended Rohit’s stay at the middle after the Mumbai cricketer went for a lofted shot, only to sky it giving Shoaib Malik the catch. Dhawan followed Rohit back to the pavilion shortly after playing one from Mohammad Sami straight back onto the stumps. Raina came in and went before the scorer could change the name on the board, playing it back to the stumps the same way as his predecessor.
With India struggling at 23/3 at the end of the powerplay, Virat Kohli, and Yuvraj Singh joined hands on a mission to guide India out of the woods – a repeat of the job they had done in the Asia Cup match between the two nations. Kohli looked in
Kohli upped the ante in the 11th over sending Shoaib Malik’s gentle off-spinner first over the square leg boundary with a slog sweep before flicking the next ball through the ground for a boundary. Seeing his partner going all guns blazing, Yuvraj joined the party by pulling a short ball from Wahab Riaz over cow corner for a six but perished in the last ball of the over attempting the same shot, only to find Sami near the ropes.
With India looking in a comfortable position needing just 35 off the last six overs, Afridi brought back Amir as the last hope. After taking singles off the first four balls, Kohli sent Amir packing
Skipper Shahid Afridi took it upon himself for one final attempt to stop India, but he was dismissed to the ropes in the second ball by Kohli as India took seven runs off the 15th over.
In the 16th over, Kohli dispatched Mohammad Irfan for a four before giving
Earlier, surviving a rain threat, the epic encounter between the arch-rivals finally started after a delay of one and half hours with the game shortened to 18 overs a side. Indian skipper M S Dhoni won the toss and opted to field on a wicket which has been under the covers since morning. The Indian skipper chose to go into the all-important match with the same XI that suffered a shock loss against New Zealand at Nagpur on Tuesday.
On the other hand, Pakistan brought in pacer Mohammad Sami in place of spinner Imad Wasim to form a four-man pace attack against the hosts. In front of a capacity crowd at the Eden Gardens, Shahid Afridi reiterated his love for playing in cricket-crazy India to receive a round of applause from the crowd.
Instead of Ashwin, Dhoni opted to use Ashish Nehra with the new ball in the hope of extracting swing and movement from the damped pitch. After Nehra’s three-run over, Ashwin came in from the other end turning some rippers past Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad. With the ball stopping in the wicket and coming slowly to the bat, the openers took their time before smashing Nehra, Ashwin and Bumrah for one boundary each in three successive overs to finish the powerplay for 24 runs without a wicket.
With the ball turning a mile, Dhoni brought in Jadeja and Raina, and it worked in India’s favour with Raina removing Sharjeel for 17 off 24 balls. Seeing the half-tracker from the part-timer, the left-hander's eyes lit up, and he skied an attempted pull. But, it was Hardik Pandya’s catch at long-on that caught the eye with the youngster diving forward to take the catch, injuring himself in the process.
Pakistan seemed a bit lost at the half-way mark, making only 42 runs in the 18-over match with nine wickets in hand. Ahmed Shehzad tried to up the ante in the tenth over and scooped a length ball from Bumrah towards the fine leg boundary. But he perished the next ball after going for a hoick across the line giving Raina at the point an easy catch.Skipper Afridi followed him to the dressing room shortly, after trying to pull Pandya out of the ground, only to find Kohli at long-on. Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik came above Mohammed Hafeez in the batting order in search of some big shots but found it difficult to get going with the ball sticking to the wicket.
They finally changed gears in the 14th over, after Malik and Akmal took the attack to Pandya smashing him for two sixes. Bumrah received similar treatment from Malik in the next over conceding two boundaries as the away side looked comfortable in the middle for the first time in the match. A flurry of wickets at the end slowed their scoring rate down, but they somehow managed to score to put a modest total on the board.
AB de Villiers or Virat Kohli - who will score more runs?
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