India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, Edgbaston – June 4, 2017: India thrash sloppy Pakistan by 124 runs

Posted on 04 June 2017 by admin

India v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, EdgbastonJune 4, 2017

India thrash sloppy Pakistan by 124 runs

THE REPORT BY SIDHARTH MONGA

India 319 for 3 (Rohit 91, Kohli 81*, Dhawan 68, Yuvraj 53) beat Pakistan 164 (Azhar 50, Umesh 3-30) by 124 runs (DLS method).

 

For what can be significant part of a match against many other teams, India were not at their best in the first match of their title defence. Yet, confirming how far Pakistan have fallen behind modern limited-overs cricket, they lost by a whopping 124 runs. Even if Pakistan had not grappled with the age-old problem of dropped catches – Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli plundered 45 off 24 and 38 off 12 after being reprieved – Pakistan might have still had to chase 280, which on the evidence of their batting might have been handful. Thanks to the fielding lapses, all of India's top four scored half-centuries – only the third time for them – to set Pakistan 324, which, given their batting, was pretty much game over.

The first two to score the fifties for India were reuniting at the top after 17 months, having started the partnership four years ago, in the same tournament, in the same country, with instant success. Success was instant on reunion as the two added India's first hundred opening against a top-eight ODI side since they themselves did it in last January. The platform of 136 runs in 24.3 overs between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan was strong enough to survive a mid-innings slowdown, especially when Yuvraj and Kohli punished the generous Pakistan by taking 89 runs in the last six overs.

At various times, though, Pakistan could have held India back. The match began with Mohammad Amir beating Rohit Sharma's bat three times in a maiden over, but the next ball was bowled by Imad Wasim and misfielded at point to sum up Pakistan's day. There is no data to suggest India might struggle against unsubtle left-arm spin early in the innings, but Rohit, Dhawan, and later Kohli, got a soft start to their innings through Imad's welcome. It might be safe to presume Pakistan wanted to get rid of Imad's overs when India were taking it easy: since the 2015 World Cup, they had scored 4.95 an over in the first 10. Imad wasn't hit out of the park – first eight overs for 43 – but India's batsmen got set with no threat to their wickets.

And soon enough, both Dhawan and Rohit began to hit. It was, in many ways, a typical Rohit-Dhawan partnership. Rohit started off slowly and took large share of early strike, then he opened up, then Dhawan went big, and Rohit then set up his stall for a long innings even as Dhawan perished. Rohit got going with languid punches with Pakistan's lengths letting him sit back, and Dhawan took a shine to the error-prone Wahab Riaz, scoring 23 off 12 balls from him. Rohit's ascent was more gradual than Dhawan's, who went from 12 off 22 to 50 off 48. He then put a full toss straight down deep midwicket's throat. Pakistan went back to Imad immediately.

A curiously slow partnership – 56 in 12.1 overs – followed between Rohit and Kohli. Having got two more Imad overs out of the way, Pakistan finally went to Amir and Hasan Ali from the 30th over onwards. This is when India were pulled back. A rain break didn't help. The bowling was accurate, but India didn't go out of their way to hit either. These overs – from around 25 to 40 – can be the difference between 300 and 325, which can be crucial in matches against stronger opposition. Here India scored 75 in those 15 overs.

In his 90s, Rohit was run out failing to keep his bat down as he dived. For a moment it seemed Pakistan's out-and-out defensive tactics might work. They had their best bowlers on when India were looking to break free, and the frustration had given them an opening. For defensive tactics to work in modern ODIs, though, you need fielders on your side and you need to keep at it for the duration of the innings. Pakistan couldn't manage either.

Yuvraj had just come in, and had been given a couple of short balls before a Shadab Khan wrong'un brought about an easy – by international standards – catch for long-off. Hasan dropped it. Mayhem followed. Playing his first ODI in 10 years in a country where he played perhaps his most famous innings back in 2002, Yuvraj unleashed sensational checked drives to beat fielders all over the ground. The endeavour was not to look for power but for timing, and he was not too fussed about the odd dot ball when the bowlers bounced him. At the other end, though, Kohli still struggled for timing, and would have been out with a strike rate of under 80, but Fakhar Zaman, substituting for Amir who had walked off mid-over with cramps, dropped him off Wahab.

Wahab's nightmare continued as his length continued to be all over the place. Injury was added to insult as he did his ankle but not before registering the most expensive analysis in Champions Trophy: 87 in 8.1 overs. Poor Imad had to come back – in the absence of two frontline bowlers – to be hit for three successive sixes by Pandya in the last over of the innings.

This was all too much for a struggling batting unit, which has been able to win them only one of the last 13 matches against top-eight sides in which their bowlers have conceded over 250. There was hope, but only for about half an hour when it rained. The moment the rain relented to leave Pakistan 289 to get in 41 overs, it was back to despair for them even though India were a little sloppy in the fielding, dropping two catches, missing a couple of run-outs, and letting the odd ball slide through their reach.

Only three batsmen managed to play 20 balls, and because these batsmen did so at a strike rate of 77, 55 and 77, the others were obliged to play high-risk cricket and give India a sixth straight win over them in ICC events.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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