Mirpur: India's vice captain Virat Kohli smashed a career-best 183 to power India virtually into the finals of the Asia Cup as he led the chase of a mammoth 330-run target to beat archrivals Pakistan by six wickets on Sunday.
Sachin Tendulkar (52) and Rohit Sharma (68) were the other chief contributors of this must-win game that took India to second place in the points table, behind Pakistan who have already booked a berth in the summit clash. Bangladesh, though, can still spoil India's party if they beat Sri Lanka by a bonus point on Tuesday; however, that's highly improbable and an India-Pakistan final is the most likely scenario.
For Pakistan, their opening pair of Mohammad Hafeez (105) and Nasir Jamshed (112) hit stroke-filled centuries in a 224-run stand that propelled Pakistan to the huge total. However, India pulled things back in the last 10 overs to instil hopes of victory.
India's run-chase began with a stutter when opener Gautam Gambhir was dismissed lbw for a nought by Mohammad Hafeez off the second ball of the innings. However, a 133-run partnership between Tendulkar and Kohli nullified the early advantage Pakistan had got.
Tendulkar was ejected by off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, but incoming batsman Rohit proved to be the ideal foil for Kohli, who has been in the form of his life. During this knock, Kohli became the second-quickest to 3500 ODI runs, only behind West Indian legend Vivian Richards. His 148-ball 183 included 22 fours and one six.
Rohit was a bit slow to get off the blocks, but once in, he made it count by rotating the strike and hitting a boundary every now and then. Kohli and Rohit both fell in the space of 13 runs after a 172-run partnership, which by then had put India in cruise mode with the score already past 300.
Raina and Kohli then performed the last rites to complete a facile win.
Earlier, Pakistan opted to bat first as both the teams made one change each. Ravindra Jadeja's niggle allowed Yousuf Pathan to make a comeback, while Pakistan drafted in fast bowler Wahab Riaz in place of wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who handed over his gloves to Umar Akmal.
Pakistan openers amassed a record 224 runs to set a solid foundation for the rest of their batting lineup. This was the best opening stand ever put up against India in ODIs.
Dhoni was forced to use eight bowlers by as early as the 24th over of the Pakistan innings, as both Hafeez and Jamshed went on a rampage. But India had to wait until the 36th over when Jamshed - who scored his maiden international ton - was dismissed by R Ashwin. Jamshed's 112 came off just 104 balls, including 10 fours and one six.
Pakistan lost their other opener, Hafeez, four balls later, which lifted the Indian spirits. Hafeez's 105 runs came off 113 balls, studded with 9 fours and one six. Akmal and Younis Khan then stitched together a 48-run partnership but Pakistan lost Akmal for 28 at the score of 273 in the 43rd over. He was dismissed by Praveen Kumar.
Afridi tried to get his eye in but his 15-ball stay was ended by Irfan Pathan. He contributed just 9 but was involved in a 40-run stand with Younis, during which Pakistan crossed the 300-run mark.
Pakistan, who scored 73 runs and lost four wickets in the last 10 overs, lost the momentum in the end but Younis's 34-ball 52 ensured Pakistan reach 329 for 6 in the end. Praveen sent him back off a one-handed stunner by Raina in the covers. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq remained not out on four, while allrounder Hammad Azam scored 4.
Ashok Dinda finished with figures of 2 for 47 in 8 overs, while Praveen was the most expensive of the lot at 2 for 77. Irfan was hammered for 69 runs in his 10 overs and returned with a solitary wicket. Ashwin's figures read 1 for 56.