MANCHESTER: Pakistan were left facing an early World Cup exit after they flopped miserably against arch-rivals India here at Old Trafford on Sunday in a rain-affected encounter.
The Pakistanis, looking for their first World Cup win against India, were unable to put their best foot forward in the high-stakes encounter as they first allowed their opponents to pile up 336 and then went for the run-chase as if they were walking on banana peels in front of a packed audience and a record global audience.
Rohit Sharma was reprieved twice as he smashed 140 while Kohli hit 77 as apart from Mohammad Amir (3-47), no Pakistani bowler managed to rise to the occasion.
Pakistan’s batting was an even bigger horror show.
In a highly disappointing manner, they failed to capitalise on a 104-run partnership for the second wicket featuring Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam. They suffered a spectacular collapse losing four wickets inside the space of 12 runs. They never recovered from it and after a rain break managed to fetch 212-6 in their chase of a revised target of 302 from 40 overs. The Indians won by 89 runs on DLS moving closer to a semi-final spot with their third win in four games. Imad Wasin was unbeaten on 46 off 39 while Shadab Khan was on 20.
Pakistan, are, meanwhile in clear and present danger of getting knocked out of the race for last four. With just three points from five matches, Pakistan will now need to win all their remaining four World Cup games to stay in the hunt for a place in the semi-finals. It seems a near impossible task for a team that has failed to really click in the tournament apart from the game against England.
The senior trio of Shoaib Malik (0), Mohammad Hafeez (9) and captain Sarfraz Ahmed (12) could contribute just 19 runs towards the team’s cause as Pakistan. Fakhar (62 from 75 balls) and Babar (48 from 57 balls) were the only Pakistani batsmen who managed to resist the Indian onslaught but even the duo never really took on the attack that was without frontline pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who had to walk out of the filed after bowling 2.4 overs because of a hamstring injury.
For Pakistan even the gentle medium pace of Vijay Shankar (2-22) was too hot to handle. But it was spinner Kuldeep Yadav who did the most damage as he scalped both Fakhar and Babar to finish with figures of 2-32. Hardik Pandya took 2-40, cleaning up the senior duo of Hafeez and Malik.
Pakistan can’t say they weren’t warned. Hours before the start of the marquee clash, Prime Minister Imran Khan had advised Sarfraz Ahmed to bat first if the flip of the coin goes in Pakistan’s favour.
But believing that the Old Trafford wicket had enough moisture to assist their pacers, Pakistan decided to put India into bat. They had belief in the in-form Mohammad Amir. They probably thought that the absence of big-hitting opener Shikhar Dhawan would give ample opportunity to their pace attack to pierce through the potent Indian top order in overcast conditions.
But it turned out to be a case of wishful thinking. Filling in for the injured Dhawan, KL Rahul provided the perfect support Rohit Sharma, who played the lead role in a partnership that laid the foundation of a big Indian total.
Amir was the only reason that kept Ind’a scoring rate in check in the first powerplay. The left-armer, who once again shot to the top slot on the highest wicket-takers of the tournament table, was at his brilliant best. He bowled to a perfect line and length, keeping both Sharma and Rahul at bay. But even as Amir kept creating pressure from end, Hasan Ali would allow India to lift it at the other.
Amir, meanwhile, was warned twice for running on the wicket in his follow through.
Pakistan came close to getting rid of the dangerous Sharma twice in quick succession. But first, it was Fakhar Zaman, who failed to run him out after targeting his throw at the wrong end. Later, Shadab Khan misdirected his throw from less 20 yards to allow another reprieve to Sharma.
Sharma obliged by smashing his second ton of the tournament. In the process, he hit the fastest fifty of his ODI career (34 balls) and played the lead role in a 136-run stand. Rahul played his role to perfect in a 78-ball 57 that included three fours and two sixes. When he finally fell to Wahab Riaz, India were already on course of a big total.
Rahul’s exit brought in Virat Kohli to the delight of a packed crowd dominated by Indian fans. The Indian captain allowed Sharma to continue playing the lead role as the two put on 98 runs for the second wicket. Both Sharma and Kohli kept punishing a series of bad deliveries bowled by the Pakistanis. Shadab, who came in for Shaheen Shah Afridi, was belted for 17 in his first over. Hasan was punished with disdain. There was some consolation for the pacer when he accounted for Sharma, whose 140 from 113 balls was the main highlight of the Indian innings. Amir spoiled India’s plan to target 350-plus as he took the wickets of Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli in quick succession to take his tournament tally to 13 wickets with 3-47. Kohli entertained the fans with a delightful 77 from 65 balls that included seven fours.
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