|ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Ahmedabad:|
|Pakistan 191 (42.5 overs): Babar 50, Rizwan 49; Bumrah 2-19|
|India 192-3 (30.3 overs): Rohit 86, Shreyas 53*|
|India won by seven wickets|
India demolished Pakistan as the most eagerly awaited contest of the World Cup so far turned into a one-sided anti-climax in Ahmedabad.
Pakistan have never beaten India in a men’s 50-over World Cup, but looked to be laying a platform to challenge the hosts when they reached 155-2 in the cauldron of the world’s largest cricket stadium.
What followed was an implosion. Captain Babar Azam was bowled by Mohammed Siraj for 50 to begin a collapse of eight wickets for 36 runs, Pakistan spiralling to 191 all out. Siraj was one of five India bowlers to pick up two wickets.
The target seemed so unlikely to trouble the powerful India batting line-up. Though Shubman Gill and Virat Kohli were both out for 16, home skipper Rohit Sharma batted magnificently for an 86 that put the result beyond doubt.
Rohit shared 77 for the third wicket with Shreyas Iyer, who ended on 53 not out as victory was sealed with almost 20 overs to spare.
For India, an eighth successive defeat of Pakistan in World Cups, a run that stretches back to 1992, is their third win in three games in this year’s tournament. They join New Zealand at the top of the group table and next meet Afghanistan on Thursday.
Pakistan lose for the first time at this World Cup, but that disappointment will be nothing in the context of such a meek performance against their fiercest rivals. They move on to play Australia in Bengaluru on Friday.
India dominate World Cup showpiece
As ever, this was billed as the highlight of the group stage of the tournament. To some, it is even more important than the final. This particular meeting between India and Pakistan had the added intrigue of it taking place in India, with none of the Pakistan XI having played in India before.
The match was preceded by a concert, essentially an opening ceremony the tournament itself did not have. The venue, the Narendra Modi Stadium, has a capacity of 132,000. With next to no Pakistan fans inside, it created one of the most partisan atmospheres in the history of all sport. Every India boundary and wicket was met with a cacophony of noise, similar Pakistan successes greeted by near silence.
The contest was on a knife-edge when Babar and Mohammad Rizwan were adding 82 for the third Pakistan wicket. India and their supporters were growing concerned until Siraj got one to keep slightly low en route to Babar’s off stump.
From there, Pakistan fell apart, a collapse mainly of their own making hinting at a psychological barrier when it comes to this fixture at the 50-over World Cup. Early wickets were needed to put India under any sort of pressure, but Rohit’s strokeplay was almost disdainful.
India move onwards in what seems an unstoppable march towards the semi-finals, while Pakistan must regroup to face Australia. It is the start of a tough and decisive run of fixtures that also includes meetings with South Africa, New Zealand and England.
In a wider sense, it is another lopsided contest in a World Cup that is crying out for a close finish.
Impressive India looking ominous
India had already dished out heavy defeats to Australia and Afghanistan, but this was by far their most impressive performance, even if they did make the strange selection decision to omit off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin in favour of all-rounder Shardul Thakur.
As they targeted the stumps on a pitch that regularly kept low, the hosts sometimes erred in line. That allowed Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique, who made 36 and 20 respectively, to make a strong start before the partnership between Babar and Rizwan.
But when Siraj found the opening, India pounced. They took the last eight wickets in 13.2 overs. Left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav removed Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed in the same over, Jasprit Bumrah produced a wonderful off-cutter to bowl Rizwan for 49. In all, seven batters were bowled or lbw.
Even before the toss, Gill had boosted India by returning from illness. In his first innings of the tournament, he slashed Shaheen Afridi to point before Kohli and Rohit added 56 for the second wicket.
Though Kohli played an ugly swipe to be caught at mid-on off Hassan Ali, Rohit continued with his effortless power, in particular his trademark pulls into the crowd.
The chance of a second successive century went begging when he miscued a Shaheen slower ball to mid-wicket with 36 still needed, leaving Shreyas and KL Rahul to complete the formalities.
Poor Pakistan blown away
This was an awful day for Pakistan, one which could derail their World Cup and possibly even have ramifications for Babar’s future as captain. They are used to being beaten by India in World Cup matches, but this was a humiliation.
The batting collapse was timid stuff, a whirl of reckless strokes that highlighted the dependency on Babar and Rizwan. After the top four, only Hassan reached double figures.
Though they managed early wickets, Pakistan’s bowling and fielding slowly disintegrated. On only one other occasion in one-day internationals have Pakistan been beaten by India with more than these 117 deliveries remaining.
Before this match, Pakistan had won games they would have reasonably expected to, with defeats of Netherlands and Sri Lanka. Now, in their first major test of the tournament, they have been found wanting.
In all likelihood, they are competing with South Africa, Australia, England and New Zealand for three spots in the semi-finals and will need a vast improvement in those upcoming key fixtures.
Pakistan have form for improving in tournaments, for bouncing back from defeats. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that they will meet India in the final on the same ground on 19 November, but they will need to move on from this chastening loss quickly.
‘The bowlers set up the game again’ – what they said
India captain Rohit Sharma: “There is no doubt about it that the bowlers set up the game for us again today. It was a great effort. I don’t think it was a 190 pitch. At one stage we were looking at 270-280 but they came back and showed grit and that says a lot about the guys.
“All in all it is looking good, and I want to keep my fingers crossed. We don’t want to get too excited or get too low, we want to stay balanced.”
Pakistan captain Babar Azam: “Not good for us. The way we started, we were targeting 280 or 290 but the collapse cost us so our total is not good.
“With the new ball, we were not up to the mark. If we had been, it might have been a different ball game. But the way Rohit played, it was an outstanding innings.”
Former Pakistan bowler Waqar Younis on BBC Test Match Special: “Pakistan have to really sit back and fix their issues.
“Losing eight wickets in 12 overs is a no-go zone. Pakistan need to work out what needs to be done because they have big matches to play against England, South Africa and New Zealand.
“Critics will be talking about Babar’s captaincy. He didn’t really think out of the box, it was pretty flat. In this sort of situation, you want to see your captain really doing something different to put pressure on the opposition and it didn’t really happen.”
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