Birmingham, June 4:
Brilliant batting display by the top-order helped India post a challenging 319/3 against Pakistan in a Group B match of the Champions Trophy cricket tournament at Edgbaston here on Sunday.
Top-order batsmen Rohit Sharma (91 runs in 119 balls), skipper Virat Kohli (81 not out), Shikhar Dhawan (68 runs in 65 balls) and Yuvraj Singh (53 runs in 32 balls) were the major contributors to India’s cause.
In an innings affected by rain — consequently shortened to 48 overs against the normal 50, India were superior throughout. The defending champions forged the crucial partnerships, played the ball to its merit and post-rain, when it was more difficult to bat with the same concentration, the batsman applied themselves to the English conditions and displayed temperament.
Apart from the top order, all-rounder Hardik Pandya’s (20 runs in six balls) cameo at the end also allowed India post a challenging total.
World No.8 Pakistan, on the other hand, were seen struggling throughout the innings. Their fielders dropped several catches and their bowlers bowled poor length which resulted in their now having to chase a huge total.
With India put in to bat, Rohit and Shikhar started on a cautious note as Pakistani pacers were right on the coin in the first hour. And just when both the batsmen seemed to be settling in the middle, rain played the spoilsport.
After almost a 40-minute holdup, with the scoreboard reading 46 runs in 9.5 overs, India regrouped their strategy and started counter-attacking.
Rohit and Dhawan displayed some brilliant shots in order to boost the run rate. In the process, Rohit, who was struggling initially, got to his half-century in the 19th over with a pull-shot that went for a six at the mid-wicket. Soon, in the very next over, Dhawan also brought up his 50 with a fine shot at backward point.
After scoring 110 runs in 20 overs, both batsmen wanted to exploit the batting conditions and some poor fielding from the Pakistani players. But while doing so, Dhawan was caught at deep mid-wicket by Azhar Ali off Shadab Khan in the 25th over. While trying to go over the top, the Delhi batsman stepped down the crease but failed to make full contact which resulted in a simple catch and hence the 136-run partnership was broken.
The fall of Dhawan’s wicket brought in Kohli, who supported Rohit well at the other end by simply rotating the strike.
Rohit, who now seemed confident at the crease, kept on punishing the bowlers. But in the 33rd over, the skies opened up again and play was interrupted.
The match started again after a 45-minute hiatus but soon the Virat-Rohit partnership ended in a sad run-out — as a result, Rohit missed a well-deserved ton.
In the 37th over, Virat wanted to steal a single but a strong throw from backward point by Babar Azam did the trick and Rohit, who slammed seven boundaries and two sixes, failed to scramble home — he was sent back to the pavilion nine runs short of his hundred.
Incoming batsman Yuvraj Singh, true to his reputation, started thrashing Pakistani bowlers all around the park. The pressure started building on the bowlers and fielders and, as a result, they dropped Yuvraj and Kohli in the process, which cost them hugely in the death overs.
The two batsman forged a 93-run partnership for the third wicket before Yuvraj was adjudged leg before wicket in the penultimate over after the Pakistan skipper went for a review and was called correct.
The 35-year-old Punjab batsman faced 32 balls and slammed eight boundaries and one six in his 53 runs.
Unperturbed by the fall of Yuvraj’s wicket, Kohli and new batsman Pandya played freely and started knocking the ball out of the ground. Pandya hit three consecutive sixes off Imad Wasim in the last over to finish the proceedings on a high.
For Pakistan, Shadab and Hasan Ali took one wicket each.
Brief score: India 319/3 (Rohit Sharma 91, Virat Kohli 81 not out, Shikhar Dhawan 68; Shadab Khan 1/52) against Pakistan. (IANS)