While the world watched, India turned on the heat against its arch-rival and declared ownership rights to a Sunday night here at the R. Premadasa Stadium.
Powered by Virat Kohli’s unbeaten 78, India defeated Pakistan by eight wickets in a crucial ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights Group II match. India finished with 129 for two in 17 overs, a fitting batting riposte following its bowlers’ fine effort that bundled out Pakistan for 128 in 19.4 overs.
India lost Gautam Gambhir in the very first over of the chase as he drilled the ball straight back to spinner Raza Hasan.
A touch of Delhi still lingered at the crease as Virat Kohli allied with Virender Sehwag, who was picked ahead of Harbhajan Singh in the playing eleven.
Sehwag swatted and thumped Umar Gul and once those early appetisers were consumed, a 74-run second-wicket partnership ensured that India was well set to extend its vice-like grip on Pakistan on global cricket events since the inaugural conventional World Cup in 1975.
The stage though belonged to Kohli (78 n.o., 61b, 8x4, 2x6), who seems to have taken a liking to the Pakistan attack.
The last time he played against the acclaimed rival in an Asia Cup ODI at Dhaka, Kohli scored a devastating 183.
The same authority and aggression was displayed again and fortune too favoured him as he was dropped on 42 and 64 with Umar Akmal and substitute Mohammad Sami being the guilty fielders.
Kohli continued unhindered even after Sehwag departed and along with Yuvraj Singh, pocketed the game for India.
The manner in which he dismantled Pakistan’s twin sword-arms — Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal — with delectable drives and the power-packed lofted shot, effectively swung the tussle, India’s way and M.S. Dhoni’s men will now stay afloat in the tournament.
Earlier, India struck a dominant note right from the moment Mohammad Hafeez elected to bat.
The Pakistan skipper took guard against Zaheer Khan and the eventful first over, included three wides, a four by Imran Nazir and a dropped catch as Sehwag grassed Hafeez on one.
The tone for a riveting contest was set and when Irfan Pathan trapped Nazir, Pakistan threw up a surprise with Shahid Afridi stepping out as the No. 3 batsman. However Afridi failed to rein in his vaulting ambition.
Soon Pakistan lurched from one batting crisis to another as Yuvraj and Kohli prised out three wickets between them.
Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal briefly salvaged the innings with a 47-run sixth-wicket partnership before succumbing to R. Ashwin’s second spell.
Yuvraj then decided to prove that his throw is still potent and that left Yasir Arafat stranded while Balaji nipped the lashing tail.
Pakistan: Md. Hafeez b Kohli 15 (28b, 1x4), I. Nazir lbw b Irfan 8 (5b, 2x4), S. Afridi c Raina b Balaji 14 (12b, 2x4), N. Jamshed c Dhoni b Yuvraj 4 (5b), K. Akmal c Dhoni b Yuvraj 5 (6b), S. Malik c Rohit b Ashwin 28 (22b, 3x4), U. Akmal c Raina b Ashwin 21 (18b, 1x6), Y. Arafat (run out) 8 (11b, 1x4), U. Gul c Dhoni b Balaji 12 (10b, 1x4, 1x6), S. Ajmal c Dhoni b Balaji 1 (2b), R. Hasan (not out) 0 (0b); Extras (lb-1, w-10, nb-1): 12; Total (in 19.4 overs): 128.
Fall of wickets: 1-17 (Nazir), 2-35 (Afridi), 3-43 (Jamshed), 4-49 (Kamran), 5-59 (Hafeez), 6-106 (Malik), 7-115 (Umar), 8-115 (Arafat), 9-128 (Gul).
India bowling: Zaheer 3-0-22-0, Irfan 3-0-30-1, Balaji 3.4-0-22-3, Ashwin 4-0-16-2, Yuvraj 3-0-16-2, Kohli 3-0-21-1.
India: G. Gambhir c & b Hasan 0 (2b), V. Sehwag c Gul b Afridi 29 (24b, 4x4), V. Kohli (not out) 78 (61b, 9x4, 2x6), Yuvraj Singh (notout) 19 (16b, 2x4); Extras (w-2, nb-1): 3; Total (for two wkts. in 17 overs): 129.
Fall of wickets: 1-1 (Gambhir), 2-75 (Sehwag).
Pakistan bowling: Hasan 4-0-22-1, Gul 3-0-30-0, Ajmal 4-0-25-0, Afridi 4-0-34-1, Arafat 1-0-11-0, Hafeez 1-0-7-0.
Man-of-the-match: Virat Kohli.
Keywords: Twenty20 Super Eights