It was billed as the biggest game of the league stage, and it appeared even the rain gods were glued to the action to the extent that they forgot to hit Old Trafford yesterday. Repeated forecasts spoke of rains throughout the afternoon, but they did come down only after a legal result was possible. India did win the game by 89 runs (DLS method) — was the outcome not supposed to be that way, anyway? They have never lost to the arch-rivals in the World Cup. But so emphatic was India’s showing that it instilled fears in the Pakistani camp. If the rain had not stopped late on Sunday evening, India would have reduced Pakistan to a more humiliating position. They were clearly the better side of the evening, thanks to Rohit Sharma-led batting and Kuldeep Yadav-inspired bowling. Ramiz Raja, commentating on radio, said the only way India can be stopped is if they get bored of dominating Pakistan. Virat Kohli & Co showed no signs of boredom and never did they take the foot off the gas. It was India all the way. The chief architect of India’s win was Rohit Sharma, who hammered a brilliant century to ensure India had a good total of 337 to defend. Then Kuldeep made sure that Pakistan’s pursuit for the target was not easy by removing Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman in successive overs to stamp India’s domination. Before the two dangerous batsmen fell to the left-arm wrist spinner, they had put on a century partnership to keep Pakistan in the game. The double-wicket breakthrough led to three more wickets as, from 117 for two, they were reduced to 165 for six in no time. With Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar also coming to the bowling party, things became difficult for Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team. Earlier, India’s batting was anchored by Rohit, who took the responsibility of making up for the absence of his regular partner Shikhar Dhawan in the line-up. Being the vice-captain, he knew that the position comes with responsibility and pressure of expectations. He stood up to the demand, pressure and expectations even as Kohli and KL Rahul played good support cast. More so the latter, who stood in for Dhawan in the opening role. Rohit started with a lucky four behind the wicket and his innings ended with a wrong shot behind the wicket. In between, he added 136 runs which remained the bulwark of India’s total of 336 for five. The other day, he told the media that having played over 200 ODIs, if he does not take the responsibility, who else would. He lived up to those words. The only blemish in his 113-ball knock was tentative running between the wickets with new opening partner Rahul. He survived a run-out on one occasion as the throw was hurled to the wrong end. Rohit was cautious against Mohammad Amir, who was Pakistan’s standout bowler of the day, but the rest did not matter to him. Initially, he singled out Hasan Ali, the right-arm pacer, by square-cutting and then lofting him over mid-wicket. The four and six got him going and he did not look back till the 39th over. He cut Wahab Riaz for a four to herald his half-century. He then went after spinners Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim even as Rahul grew in strength to reach his own half-century after a circumspect start. The openers added 136 before Rahul fell for a soft dismissal. Rohit went on and on against the spinners, and hit Hasan for a four to reach his century, his second in this World Cup and third in the showpiece event, in the 34th over. He added 98 with Kohli before a reverse chip brought about his dismissal. Kohli, who was also slow to begin with, then took charge and got India to a decent total which could have been much higher if not for a suspect caught-behind decision. The replays were not conclusive, but it was redundant as Kohli chose not to review the decision. Before being dismissed, Kohli exhibited some superb sense of placement, hitting shots in vacant areas. He also ran fast for converting ones into twos to the frustration of the Pakistan camp. The rain interruption stymied India’s charge a bit but it was good enough for Pakistan, although India could have done well with bigger contributions from Hardik Pandya and Vijay Shankar. Both made up with their bowling as India made it 7-0 against their arch-rivals in the World Cup.
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June 26, 2019
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