It was a superlative effort from the bowling unit that saw them shot out Pakistan for a paltry 162 in 43.1 overs before Rohit Sharma (52 off 39 balls) and Shikhar Dhawan (46 off 54 balls) added 86 for the opening wicket to ensure a smooth chase for the 'Men In Blue' in only 29 overs. This was India's most comprehensive victory in terms of balls remaining (126).
After a wake-up call against Hong Kong, the Pakistan match was a near perfect performance for India as Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3/15 in 7 overs) and Kedar Jadhav (3/23 in 9 overs) were perfectly complemented by Jasprit Bumrah (2/23 in 7.1 overs) and Kuldeep Yadav (1/37 in 8 overs).
If Kuldeep's googly to snuff out Babar Azam was the turning point, Kedar Jadhav's unconventional side-arm off-breaks broke the lower middle-order as Pakistan never recovered from the batting collapse. With the pressure of scoreboard virtually non-existent, Rohit and Dhawan showed why they are one of the most formidable opening pair in white ball cricket.
The eighth over from Usman Khan enabled India cut loose as Rohit first hooked him for a six using the pace of the delivery and followed it with a 'Nataraja' pull shot for boundary and then short arm pull in-front of the square for another six. With 19 runs coming off that over, there was no looking back for India.
Rohit's third six was a another hook shot off Hasan Ali followed by a drive through mid-off to complete his 35th half century in ODIs. He was fooled by a googly from Shadab Khan but by then India were on course for a comprehensive victory. Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik both contributed 31 to take India past finish line with consummate ease.
The two teams will now meet in Super Four on September 23. Earlier Jadhav produced a laudable performance as he did the job of a frontline spinner after Hardik Pandya (0/24 in 4.5 overs) was stretchered off the field due to an acute lower back injury.
This was after young Babar Azam (47) and veteran Shoaib Malik (43) added 82 runs for the third wicket and looked like taking control of the proceedings.
However, Pakistan suffered a batting collapse losing five wickets for 36 runs before Faheem Ashraf (21) and Mohammed Aamir (16) added an invaluable 37 runs for the eighth wicket to take the total past 150-run mark.
Put into bat, Pakistan were in trouble straight away as Bhuvneshwar dealt a twin blow removing the in-form duo of Imam ul Haq (2) and Fakhar Zaman (0) to reduce them to 2 for 3. Imam charged to a short of length delivery that climbed on him and the thickish outside edge was taken by Dhoni. Zaman, India's tormentor in the Champions Trophy, mistimed a pull-shot and Yuzvendra Chahal took a well-judged catch.
Babar and Malik then resurrected the innings with a fine partnership. The half-volleys on both sides of the wicket were driven with ferocity. Malik, who is a good player of spin bowling, gave Kuldeep Yadav the charge to hit him for a six and rotated the strike well.
In fact, Malik was dropped off Pandya's bowling, whose agonies increased when he had to leave the field. Babar failed to read Kuldeep's googly as it clipped his off-bail. From 85 for 2, it soon became 100 for five as Pakistan lost wickets in a heap.
Sarfraz Ahmed (6) was dismissed by Jadhav as substitute fielder Manish Pandey took a blinder at long-on. The Pakistani batsmen found it extremely difficult to read Jadhav's round arm action as he bowled straight and wide. Asif Ali was caught behind and then Malik was run-out by a direct throw from Ambati Rayudu.
Shadab Khan (8) was stumped by Dhoni as he bacame Yadav's third victim of the match. Faheem and Aamir did try their bit as Pakistan crossed the 150-run mark before Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah wrapped up the tail in the 44th over.
First Published: September 19, 2018, 11:29 PM IST