Dhawan, Rohit, Kohli and Yuvraj hit half-centuries before bowlers do their job in crushing victory over Pakistan
It had buzz, it had excitement, it had packed stands in which fans who had gathered from all over the world created an atmosphere that wouldn’t have been out of place in Chennai. And eventually, the blockbuster India v Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy 2017 match on Sundayended with the better team winning on the day.
The way it panned out, India cruised to victory with relative ease, but given the beyond-cricket stakes involved whenever these two countries face each other, the intensity never diminished. Put in to bat with the weather expected to play tricks, India amassed a huge 319 for 3 in what became a 48-overs a side affair with two rain interruptions during the innings, each lasting almost 50 minutes.
Pakistan had a rain interruption in its innings as well, which saw the target become 289 in 41 overs, but was never seriously in the hunt, and its challenge ended at 164 for 9 – the injured Wahab Riaz didn’t bat – in 33.4 overs at Edgbaston in Birmingham, losing by 124 runs via the DLS Method.
India’s bowlers were clinical, but this was a win driven by the batsmen, particularly the incandescent skills of Virat Kohli, whose mastery of the 50-over format only seems to grow with every match. But on the night, the man who played just as important a role as Kohli was Yuvraj Singh, the veteran. Yuvraj kick-started an explosion at the death for India with 53 off 32, coming in when the run rate had begun to flounder but leaving when it had been lifted to match-winning proportions.
Kohli was the master, hitting 81 not out off 68, the feature of his batting how he hung through tough periods and then blasted off by going into a zone few other batsmen can contemplate. Theirs were not the only notable batting efforts, with Shikhar Dhawan’s 65-ball 68 very important in not just setting a foundation but doing it at decent pace. Rohit Sharma hung around and was the top scorer, but he consumed several dot balls in making 91 off 119. At the death, Hardik Pandya had some fun, smashing three sixes in the last over to end on 20 not out off just six balls.
The feature of India’s innings, though, was the 93-run stand for the third wicket between Kohli and Yuvraj, which came in a mere 58 balls. The two had got together with India looking reasonably healthy at 192 for 2 in the 37th over, but having struggled for momentum leading up to Rohit’s wicket. Yuvraj got going immediately, though Pakistan will rue Hasan Ali dropping a regulation chance at long-off when the left-hander was on eight, the impressive Shadab Khan (1 for 52) being the unfortunate bowler. They will also rue Fakhar Zaman, the substitute, spilling Kohli on 43, though off a tougher chance.
The two batsmen made Pakistan pay dearly for the misses. Kohli went from 44 to 81 in just 12 balls, while Yuvraj pulled, drove, carved and beat the bowlers into submission at the other end.
Their stand overshadowed the hefty 136 Rohit and Dhawan had put on for the opening wicket, starting slowly but gaining momentum, particularly through Dhawan. Apart from the dropped catches, Pakistan was fairly sloppy in the field otherwise too, allowing the openers to steal singles and turn ones into twos even when the bowlers kept things tight at the start. Dhawan cut loose against Riaz – who had a forgettable day – with three consecutive fours in the 20th over.
Pakistan had its share of misfortune too. Mohammad Amir, the most threatening bowler on show, pulled up with cramps at the start of his ninth over to limp off the field with figures of 8.1-1-32-0. That this happened in the 44th over, with Yuvraj already striking it well and Kohli about to cut loose, meant Pakistan lost its key bowler at the most critical moment.
To compound matters, Riaz – who completed Amir’s over – also went off in the 46th over when slipping in the follow-through and twisting his ankle. It meant Imad Wasim bowled the last over, allowing Pandya to break loose.
Faced with a daunting ask, Pakistan needed a quick start but India’s pace trio of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Jasprit Bumrah were not having any of that. Azhar Ali began brightly, but Ahmed Shehzad was the first to go, trapped in front by Bhuvneshwar. Babar Azam wasn’t able to get going, before being snapped up by Umesh, and Pakistan was in some trouble at 61 for 2.
Kohli was astute with his bowling changes, and Pakistan couldn’t string together a partnership worth the name. When Shoaib Malik began to play some shots, he threw his wicket away carelessly, steering Umesh to Ravindra Jadeja at short third man and setting off for a run that was risky to any fielder, foolhardy to Jadeja. The fielder duly knocked the stumps down directly, encapsulating the kind of day it had been for both teams.
After that, no batsmen put up any resistance, and the bowlers made breakthroughs regularly, finishing off a match that had been blighted by rain in bright sunshine.