Before their game against Pakistan, India’s batting template in this World Cup was based on a steady accumulation of runs at the top of the order, followed by the no-holds-barred flourish in the end. At Manchester, they tweaked their approach. India’s climb to Mt 336 was steady — they scored an above average 53 runs in the first 10 overs and they had just one six in the final 23 overs. Here’s how India’s run-worm never stopped or sprinted but it took measured steps to cross the 300 mark.
1 to 10 over: Runs: 53; Wkt: 0 (RR: 5.30)
Rohit’s impetus upfront: The opener is usually circumspect at the start of an innings and this is also when he is the most vulnerable. However, if Sharma manages to see off the early burst from the fast bowlers, he scores big, like he did against South Africa and Australia. There was a role reversal against Pakistan. In the absence of belligerent injured opener, Shikhar Dhawan, Sharma was fast off the blocks (strike rate of 125 in his first 20 balls) . He was watchful against Md Amir but took on the rest. Sharma’s audacious stroke-play gave KL Rahul, his new opening partner time to settle in. He was unbeaten on 29-ball 37.
11 to 30 overs: Runs: 119; Wkts: 1 (RR: 5.95)
Acceleration in middle overs: Quite often in this World Cup, we have seen bowling sides making resounding comebacks in the middle overs through some judicious use of the slow bowlers. The Old Trafford pitch was sluggish and was even assisting Pakistan’s spinners. But they couldn’t stop Sharma. The spread out field did little to diminish his aggression. He registered his 24th ODI century in just the 30th over. The openers added 100 runs. Between overs 11-30, India scored 119 runs for the loss of Rahul, scoring at a run-a-ball. This essentially was the cornerstone of India’s humongous total.
31 to 40 overs: Runs 76; Wkts: 1 (RR: 7.6)
Batting nous: This was the period when the Indian batsmen stood out with their running between the wickets. The ability to convert the ones into twos helped Kohli keep the foot on the accelerator without playing risky strokes. Old Trafford is not a small ground by any stretch and taking advantage of the gaps in the field, Kohli took 12 out of his team’s 25 doubles. In between all the frenetic running, the captain and his deputy kept peeling off a boundary in almost every over to ensure the run-rate remained healthy. This relentless two-pronged attack kept the pressure on Pakistan’s bowlers as well as on the fielders .
41 to 50 overs: Runs 88; Wkts: 3 (RR: 8.8)
Controlled finish: With the score at 248/2 after 40 overs, India had expected a bombastic finish. Consequently, they sent Hardik Pandya at No.4 following Sharma’s exit. He played a cameo, but Pakistan made decisive inroads through Md Amir, who accounted for Pandya and MS Dhoni in successive overs. Kohli’s aggression was more controlled; flurry of ones and twos interjected by the odd boundary. The fact that India could not muster a six after the 43rd over says something about their approach as much as the pitch. Nevertheless, they stacked up 88 runs in this final passage of play, which proved to be good enough.