High-flying India cruises to victory
Ahmedabad/Adelaide: The Adelaide Oval, packed and vibrant as it savoured cricket’s most colourful rivalry, was a theatre of dreams on a memorable Sunday.
India v Pakistan on any cricket field is guaranteed to be an unmissable event. When it is on a stage as grand as the ICC Cricket World Cup, in front of 41,587 passionate fans, it makes for the kind of spectacle that few other sporting showdowns can rival.
India, the defending champion, came into Sunday’s (February 15) game short on form. It hadn’t won any competitive game in Australia for nearly three months, including a four-Test series and a tri-series that also included England. Pakistan carried momentum and ‘feel-good’ into this game, having put it past Bangladesh and then England, if only in the warm-up games.
This was to have been Pakistan’s best chance to arrest a five-match losing streak to India in ICC Cricket World Cups. However, an energised Indian team ensured a sixth World Cup win over its neighbour. Mahendra Singh Dhoni roused themselves into a thrilling display. Virat Kohli’s 22nd One-day International century, which split entertaining half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina, set up India’s impressive 300 for 7. The bowlers then stepped up, impressing with not just their intent but also their execution, they joined hands in a rip-roaring collective exhibition to bowl Pakistan out for 224. Victory on the night by a massive 76 runs.
Not until Misbah-ul-Haq, a past master at trying to rescue a burning ship, got stuck into them did the bowling come under any pressure. Instead, buoyed by the bank of runs at their disposal, it was they that applied tremendous pressure on the Pakistani batting, reshuffled with Younis Khan pushed up to the top of the tree and Umar Akmal brought in as wicketkeeper ahead of Sarfraz Ahmed to shore up the middle order.
Mohammed Shami got India off to the perfect start with a screamer that got big on Younis from a length. Caught in no-man’s land, the ball lobbed off glove for Dhoni to hold a simple catch, India striking in the fourth over. Ahmed Shehzad was overshadowed by Haris Sohail during a second-wicket stand of 68, but India’s bowlers weren’t panicking. The boundary balls were put in cold storage, and the batsmen found it impossible to impose themselves. R Ashwin, meanwhile, slipped into wonderful rhythm, drift and turn and bounce allowing him to get on and eventually evict Haris with a classical offspinner’s delivery that caught the edge on its way to slip.
Pakistan reached 100 with Shehzad in hit-and-miss mode and Misbah becalmed, when the action picked up. Umesh Yadav's first spell had read 3-0-23-0, but Dhoni, the master of the one-day game, brought him back for a second spell. In three deliveries, Yadav sent Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood back; in the next over, Ravindra Jadeja had Akmal caught behind, a verdict India won on review. Pakistan had lost 3 for 1 in 9 balls. All but decisive.
Shahid Afridi kept Misbah company during a stand of 46 but then it was Shami’s turn to pick up two wickets in the same over, leaving the captain to do it all on his own. Misbah tried his best but 147 in the company of 9, 10 and Jack was a bridge too far. India kept its nerve even as Misbah kept hammering away; Shami rounded off a brilliant evening with an excellent over from round the stumps, forcing Misbah to pull to mid-on, and India was home and dry.
As a sweltering afternoon gradually made way for a pleasant evening, the early threat of Mohammad Irfan, the giant, had earlier been negated expertly by Rohit Sharma and Dhawan. Raina then cut loose with making a power-packed 74, and though Sohail Khan (5 for 55) triggered a slew of wickets towards the end as India lost 5 for 27 in the final 30 deliveries, the total was far from trifling.
Kohli was the glue that held the innings together and walked away with the accolades, but he could bat at his own pace only because Dhawan at the top and Raina towards the middle and later stages were outstanding. Dhawan, persisted with despite a run of poor form, repaid the team management’s faith with interest. Rohit fell after a reasonably brisk start to a predetermined pull that only lobbed to mid-off to give the enterprising Sohail a deserved wicket. In walked Kohli at No. 3 in the eighth over with 34 on the board.
Kohli managed to conquer the nerves that the big stage brings well, helped along by the controlled aggression of Dhawan, who didn’t put a foot wrong. Having warmed up by pulling Irfan well over the square-leg fence, Dhawan unleashed stunning strokes on both sides of the wicket, a rasping cut off Wahab Riaz that screamed over point and thudded into the boundary boards long before the bowler had completed his follow through easily the pick.
Pakistan needed a moment of inspiration to bring it back into the contest, and that came through the skipper. Kohli played Haris to midwicket, called Dhawan through, but Misbah, soon to be 41, moved with brisk alacrity and pinged the stumps down at the non-striker’s end to end a stand of 129, only the second 100-plus stand for India against Pakistan in World Cups.