Albeit they had to wait 32 hours to get the two valuable points, India have embarked on their 2023 Asia Cup Super Four campaign on the perfect note, with a stunning 228-run triumph over rivals Pakistan, in Colombo’s R Premadasa Stadium.
With the inclement weather offering purchase for the seamers, coupled with the monumental run rate pressure, chasing a gigantic target of 357 runs was always going to be a tall climb for Pakistan.
Having said that, their team management and fans will be rather disappointed with the events of Monday evening, as instead of putting up a resolute fight, they ended up laying their arms down, with India bowling them out for 128 runs.
The tone was set by Jasprit Bumrah, who was bowling in ODI cricket for the first time since July 2022, but looked in complete control of his line, length and bowling rhythm.
India’s pace spearhead dismissed Pakistani opener Imam-ul-Haq in the fifth over, whilst six overs later, an excellent inswinger from Hardik Pandya breached the defence of the opposition’s skipper, Babar Azam, to have the number one batter in men’s ODI cricket castled.
The match was then interrupted again, with rain making its umpteenth appearance, but since resumption at 9:40pm, the Indian bowlers did not offer the Pakistani batters any respite whatsoever.
Batters departed a dime a dozen, with opener Fakhar Zaman being the only batter who was able to score north of 25 runs. For India, Kuldeep Yadav emerged as the most valuable spinner, scalping five wickets.
It was only the second time where the left-arm spinner picked up five or more wickets in ODI cricket, and the first time since 2018. Barring Kuldeep, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur scalped one wicket apiece.
Kohli & KL Call the Shots in Pakistan’s Catastrophe
Earlier, India managed to exude brilliance with the bat, scoring 356/2 in their 50 overs. Following a washout on Sunday, 10 September, the game commenced on reserve day right from where it was halted – with India’s score reading 147/2 after 24.1 overs – but not without more weather-related drama.
Rain’s hide-and-seek continued for over an hour since the stipulated starting time, but at 4:40pm, the first ball of ‘Day 2’ was bowled. Fortunately for the cricket enthusiasts, who have utilised every bit of patience in their arsenal since yesterday, weather gods have been kind ever since.
As for what transpired on the pitch, Pakistan were handed a body blow early on, with Haris Rauf being ruled out of the game owing to a precautionary measure, with matches coming thick and fast.
The likes of Naseem Shah and Faheem Ashraf got the green shirts off to a good start, but with the introduction of part-time spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, who had to make up for the overs of Rauf, both Virat Kohli and KL Rahul switched gears.
Whilst India’s score read 175/2 after 30 overs, the pair accumulated 50 runs over the next five overs, with the spin pairing of Ahmed and Shadab Khan facing the wrath of the Indian batters.
Initially, KL Rahul played the role of an aggressor, recording his half-century in the 34th over, before Kohli, too, joined the party and got his fifty in the 39th over. Since then, hardly any Pakistani bowler managed to come out unscathed, with everyone being taken to the cleaners.
The absence of Rauf proved to be costly for Babar Azam’s team, with Iftikhar Ahmed conceding 46 runs in his five-over spell, with Kohli and Rahul bringing up a 150-run third-wicket stand in his last over.
That, however, was not the only milestone of the day, with two major milestones waiting in the pipeline. The first arrived in the last delivery of the 47th over, where KL Rahul, who is returning from a prolonged injury layoff and has not featured in any format of the game since 1 May, scored his sixth century in this format.
Kohli remained unbeaten on 122 runs from 94 deliveries, having struck nine fours and three maximums. On the opposite end, with 12 fours and a couple of sixes, KL Rahul remained not out on 111 runs from 106 deliveries.