2015 ICC WC: High-flying India cruise to 6-0 against arch-rivals Pakistan in their opening match


February 15, 2015

Brief Scorecard: India 300 for 7 (Kohli 107, Raina 74, Dhawan 73, Sohail 5-55) beat Pakistan 224 (Misbah 76, Shehzad 47, Shami 4-35) by 76 runs

February 15, 2015

Brief Scorecard: India 300 for 7 (Kohli 107, Raina 74, Dhawan 73, Sohail 5-55) beat Pakistan 224 (Misbah 76, Shehzad 47, Shami 4-35) by 76 runs

The India players rejoice after clinching victory against Pakistan, India vs Pakistan, World Cup 2015, Group B, Adelaide, February 15, 2015 © Getty Images

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – The Adelaide Oval, packed and vibrant as it savored cricket’s fiercest, most colorful rivalry, was a theatre of dreams on a memorable Sunday. One team’s theatre of dreams meant it was a theatre of nightmare too, for the other.

India v Pakistan on any cricket field is guaranteed to send the temperature soaring. When it is on a stage as grand as the World Cup, in front of 41,587 decidedly divided fans, it makes for the kind of spectacle that few other sporting showdowns can rival. It’s not just about the result; it is only about the result.

Fans line up outside the Adelaide Oval, Group B, India vs Pakistan, World Cup 2015, Adelaide, February 15, 2015

India, the defending champions, came into Sunday’s (February 15) game short on form, if not confidence. They hadn’t won a single competitive game in Australia for nearly three months, and they had sleepwalked through much of the tri-series last month when they were spanked by Australia and England. Pakistan carried momentum and ‘feel-good’ into this game, having put it past Bangladesh and then England, if only in the warm-up games.

This was to have been Pakistan’s best chance to arrest a five-match losing streak in World Cups to their proximal friends. India were ripe for the picking, their batsmen not in any great touch and their bowling suspect given the lack of experience and consistency, if not quality.

There is something about the World Cup and Pakistan that energizes the Indian team though. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men bore no resemblance to the stuttering unit of the previous month as they roused themselves into a thrilling display. Virat Kohli’s 22nd One-day International century, which split entertaining half-centuries from Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina, set up India’s impressive 300 for 7. The bowlers then stepped up, impressing with not just their intent but also their execution, they joined hands in a rip-roaring collective exhibition to bowl Pakistan out for 224. Victory on the night by a massive 76 runs, first set to India 6-0, so to say.

Not until Misbah-ul-Haq, a past master at trying to rescue a burning ship, got stuck into them did the bowling come under any pressure. Instead, buoyed by the bank of runs at their disposal, it was they that applied tremendous pressure on the Pakistani batting, reshuffled with Younis Khan pushed up to the top of the tree and Umar Akmal brought in as wicketkeeper ahead of Sarfraz Ahmed to shore up the middle order.

Mohammed Shami got India off to the perfect start with a screamer that got big on Younis from a length. Caught in no-man’s land, all Younis could do was plonk his gloves in front of his face. The ball lobbed off glove for Dhoni to hold a simple catch, India striking in the fourth over.

Ahmed Shehzad, totally out of sorts, was overshadowed by Haris Sohail during a second-wicket stand of 68, but India’s bowlers weren’t panicking. The boundary balls Dhoni had feared were put in cold storage, and the batsmen found it impossible to impose themselves. R Ashwin, meanwhile, slipped into wonderful rhythm, drift and turn and bounce allowing him to get on and eventually evict Haris with a classical offspinner’s delivery that caught the edge on its way to slip.

Pakistan limped to 100 with Shehzad in hit-and-miss mode and Misbah completely becalmed, when all hell broke loose. Umesh Yadav had bowled a poor first spell, 3-0-23-0, when Dhoni, the master of the one-day game, brought him back for a second spell. In three deliveries, Yadav sent Shehzad and Sohaib Maqsood packing; in the next over, Ravindra Jadeja had Akmal caught behind, a verdict India won on review. Pakistan had lost 3 for 1 in 9 balls. All but decisive.

Shahid Afridi kept Misbah company during a stand of 46 but then it was Shami’s turn to pick up two wickets in the same over, leaving the captain to do it all on his own. Misbah tried his best but 147 in the company of 9, 10 and Jack was way too much for him. India kept their nerve even as Misbah kept hammering away; Shami rounded off a brilliant evening with an excellent over from round the stumps, forcing Misbah to pull to mid-on, and India were home and dry. Again.

As a sweltering afternoon gradually made way for a pleasant evening, the early threat of Mohammad Irfan, the giant, had earlier been negated expertly by Rohit Sharma and Dhawan. Raina then cut loose with making a power-packed 74, and though Sohail Khan (5 for 55) triggered a slew of wickets towards the end as India lost 5 for 27 in the final 30 deliveries, the total was far from trifling.

Virat Kohli exults after bringing up his ton, India vs Pakistan, World Cup 2015, Group B, Adelaide, February 15, 2015

Kohli was the glue that held the innings together and walked away with the accolades, but he could bat at his own pace only because Dhawan at the top and Raina towards the middle and later stages were outstanding. Dhawan, persisted with despite a horror run all tour long, repaid the team management’s faith with interest. Rohit fell after a reasonably brisk start to an outlandish stroke, a predetermined pull only lobbing to mid-off to give the enterprising Sohail a deserved wicket. In walked Kohli at No. 3 in the 8th over with 34 on the board, laying to rest all speculation about where and when he would bat.

Kohli should have walked back less than half an hour later, but he was put down by a late-reacting Yasir Shah at deep midwicket as he essayed a pull off Shahid Afridi when just 3. It wasn’t his only let-off. Akmal grassed him off Haris’s part-time left-arm spin when the batsman was 76. Kohli seemed too keyed up to bat with the authority that comes to him when he is in total control of his emotions, and while he didn’t anything silly, it was obvious that he had to battle whatever demons were inside of him.

To his credit, he managed that quite well, helped along by the controlled aggression of Dhawan, who didn’t put a foot wrong. Having warmed up by pulling Irfan well over the square-leg fence, Dhawan unleashed stunning strokes on both sides of the wicket, a rasping cut off Wahab Riaz that screamed over point and thudded into the boundary boards long before the bowler had completed his follow through easily the pick.

Pakistan needed a moment of inspiration to bring them back into the contest, and that came through their skipper. Kohli played Haris to mid-wicket, called Dhawan through and then left his partner for dead. Misbah, soon to be 41, moved with brisk alacrity and pinged the stumps down at the non-striker’s end to end a stand of 129, only the second 100-plus stand for India against Pakistan in World Cups.

Indian fans enjoy themselves at the Adelaide Oval, India vs Pakistan, World Cup 2015, Group B, Adelaide, February 15, 2015

The third came in less than an hour. As Kohli motored on, Raina took his time to find his feet, then teed off in fairly spectacular fashion. India made just 29 in the Batting Power Play, but the next five overs produced a whopping 56, most of them going to Raina who spared neither the pacers nor the spinners. Once Raina begins to find his range, no ground is big enough for him. He played his characteristic meaty pull-drives over midwicket and mid-on, his tremendous ball-striking taking Pakistan by surprise after the lull of the Power Play.

Raina was more excited than Kohli when the latter pushed Afridi to long-off to reach three-figures, and celebrated his partner reaching the milestone with three fours in one Sohail over. The partnership had reach 110 in just 93 when Kohli eventually perished, two overs before Raina was caught in the deep. India then suffered an alarming slump as wickets tumbled and the runs stayed away, but they still had enough on the board against a team that had never successfully chased down more than 300 outside the subcontinent.

Courtesy: Wisden India