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Barring the rain interruption, there was no stopping India’s march in Birmingham as they romped to a 124-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in their first game of ICC Champions Trophy 2017. The win gives India two points and they go top of Group B.
Batting first, India posted 319 for the loss of three wickets, thanks to half-centuries from top four batsmen, in 48 overs. The bowlers then produced a stunning display with to bowl out Pakistan for 164 in 33.4 overs. Pakistan’s target was revised to 289 from 41 overs as rain interrupted their innings twice.
Four years back, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan came together as an opening pair in Birmingham during the Champions Trophy against Pakistan. That day, the opening stand for India was 58. Playing together as an opening pair after 17 months, in the same venue and against the same opposition, they bettered that stand by 78 runs to help India lay the platform.
Rohit, returning to international cricketer after an injury lay-off, took his time to settle and India managed only 10 runs off the first overs. But both openers gradually accelerated and found batting easier in Birmingham. But rain interrupted India’s innings after 9.5 overs. Pakistan operated with Mohammad Amir from one end and spinner Imad Wasim from the other which did not really trouble the Indian batsmen.
Resuming the innings, Rohit and Dhawan scored more freely with the former rotating the strike more while the latter tried to hit big. Dhawan scored runs off Wahab Riaz and soon looked good for a big innings and so did Rohit. But, Dhawan then hit a full toss straight to deep midwicket to be back in the pavilion.
In came Virat Kohli. Pakistan could have capitalised here but they brought Imad back and allowed Kohli to settle. Soon Amir and Hasan Ali were back into the attack. Kohli and Rohit found it difficult to score runs. A second rain interruption slowed down India. Rohit had just broken the shackles when against the run of play and nine runs short of his hundred, he was run-out. Though he had made his ground, Rohit’s bat was in the air when the bails were removed. His 119-ball innings had seven fours and two sixes.
Pakistan were right on top at that moment as India were not finding the opening to break free but in came Yuvraj Singh and he launched an all-out attack right from the start. Playing freely, he picked up his areas and timed the ball perfectly. He had his share of luck as well as he was dropped by Hasan at long-off. Nothing stopped Yuvraj after that as he brought up his half-century off just 29 balls.
At the other end, Kohli struggled to time the ball and a dropped catch by Fakhar Zaman kept him at the crease. He still brought up his fifty and with Yuvraj, shared a 93-run stand off just 58 balls.
After Yuvraj’s wicket, Hardik Pandya played the final over and hit the first three balls for sixes. India took 72 runs off the final four overs as Pakistan failed to capatalise on a perfect set-up and India posted 319 for 3 in 48 overs.
Pakistan batting, lacking intent and intensity, never looked like putting up a fight. Azhar Ali scored a half-century but other batsmen did not going. Scoring at a strike-rate of less than 70 never helped their team and the self-inflicted pressure forced Pakistan to surrender.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Ahmed Shehzad leg-before before Babar Azam played a rash shot straight to backward-point. Jadeja returned to bowling and picked up two wickets after a stunning direct-hit ran out Shoaib Malik.
Barring Jadeja, India’s fielding was sloppy, just like Pakistan. They dropped four catches and missed a couple of run-out chances.
While Edgbaston recorded its best ever crowd for an ODI match, the match itself never match the hype around it. It was one-way traffic and that improved their record in ICC ODI tournaments. Since the 2011 World Cup loss to South Africa, India have lost only one match (2015 World Cup semi-final against Australia), and won 17. Against Pakistan, this was there sixth straight win.