India beat Pakistan after ruthless Rohit Sharma sets insurmountable target at Cricket World Cup

It was always impossible for this game to live up to the hype but there is no question that India are matching expectations at the World Cup.

They were too powerful, too ruthless and too composed for Pakistan, beating them by 89 runs via the DLS method in another one-sided rain-hit contest at a tournament crying out for a close game and a sunny day.

Only England boast India’s strength but can their players show the same nerve under pressure? India were so steely and focused against Pakistan that this could have been any old, one-day international rather than one of the world’s great sporting contests.

Rohit Sharma’s 140 off 113 balls propelled India to the kind of total that wins matches at this World Cup, while the new-ball skills of Jasprit Bumrah, and the flight and mystery of Kuldeep Yadav, were too much for an overwhelmed Pakistan team.

Only two of the Pakistan side: Mohammad Amir and Babar Azam, – would realistically have a chance of breaking into a combined XI. Whereas Pakistan looked like a side burdened by carrying the hopes of a nation, India welcomed it. They had too much depth for Pakistan and too many players accustomed to the high octane, big occasion thanks to Indian Premier League exposure.

Pity poor old Sarfaraz Ahmed. It cannot be easy when the prime minister is the most legendary Pakistan captain of all time. Imran Khan took to Twitter in the morning to give the team a pep talk in front of his 9.7 million followers and one of his decrees was to bat first if Sarfaraz won the toss. He did and decided to bowl, lured into the decision by thinking the recent rain had juiced up the pitch and the ball would move in the overcast conditions at 10.30am.

That is Test-match thinking at Old Trafford when bowlers are armed with a red Duke but in this tournament they are using a Kookaburra white which sounds like a butterfly and floats like one, too, for those without genuine pace.

Pakistan picked only three seamers, packing their bowling with spin instead because they did not trust the inexperience of the two 19-year-old quicks in the squad, but it was a lopsided attack made even lighter by Hasan Ali bowling so poorly.

Pakistan were frustrated, too, by officialdom, with both Amir and Wahab Riaz warned twice for running on the pitch. Riaz was forced to bowl around the wicket for the rest of the innings and Pakistan always looked like a side on the edge, juggling the risk of one of their key fast bowlers being banned from the attack with the knowledge their spinners were being played with ease by Indian batsmen brought up on such bowling.

Ahmed grew frustrated with his bowlers who were unable to bowl to the fields he set and when his side had a chance to run out Sharma on 32, Fakhar Zaman threw to the wrong end. Sharma is one of the best pullers and cutters in world cricket, he just waited on the back foot for bowlers to drop short and there was plenty of opportunity for him to do that. India paid Amir respect, seeing him off while happily taking on the other bowlers.

Sharma eased his way to 50 off 34 balls, his quickest half-century in one-day internationals, and once he is past 30 he becomes very difficult to dislodge. He did not try anything flashy, there was no need. He hit the bad balls, rotated the strike, confident with his rhythm and timing. Pakistan could not build pressure. Spinners are there to apply the squeeze. But Shadab Khan bowled an awful first over that cost 17, while back up bowlers Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik were belted out of the attack with disdain.

After the century opening stand, Kohli added magic with some glorious drives while Sharma moved to his hundred, his second of this World Cup, and the third-fastest of his career, off 107 balls. Kohli reached his own milestone, clocking up 11,000 ODI runs. Naturally, he is the fastest to reach the landmark, managing it 52 innings quicker than the previous record holder, Sachin Tendulkar.

Sharma departed the first time he tried to be flashy, caught at fine leg attempting a ramp, but at 234 for two with 12 overs to go, India were looking at 350. Hardik Pandya’s strength and bat speed enabled him to hit a one-handed top edge for six but it did not last. He tried the helicopter shot but did not quite have the MS Dhoni-like flourish and was caught on the boundary. Dhoni was out second ball as Amir bowled a masterful final spell, and his skill and accuracy saved his side from a real pummelling. Even Kohli was overwhelmed, walking for a non- existent edge.

Pakistan could not cope with Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling beautifully with the new ball. Kumar went off with a hamstring injury but Vijay Shankar stepped up and with his first ball removed Imam-ul-Haq with a big inswinger.

Zaman and Azam rebuilt but Kohli could attack with his mystery spinners on a pitch starting to turn. Azam was bowled by a magical delivery that spun wickedly through the gate to spark a collapse of four wickets for 12 runs that sealed the result. Pandya took two in two balls including Malik for a golden duck. Ahmed eked out 12 singles from 30 balls before he played on, and anyone with a heart would have ended the game there and then but another rain break held up the inevitable for another hour.

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