A near-perfect batting performance set up the match for Team India in their ICC Champions Trophy opener against Pakistan on Sunday. On a belter of a pitch at Edgbaston, India – after an interruption midway in their innings – posted 319-3 in 48 overs. Later in the afternoon, the Indian bowlers restricted Pakistan, who were given a revised target of 289, to win by 124 runs.
The two things that stood out in the India innings was the application of the batsmen and their acceleration; all the batsmen batted for relatively long periods, saw through difficult phases of play and converted them to significant scores.
Early on in the morning, the Indian innings began with a maiden over; Mohammed Amir hit his straps from the word go and asked difficult questions off Rohit Sharma, who survived six testing deliveries. Runs were hard to come by early on, but both Rohit and Shikhar batted those difficult spells of play. In the first ten overs, India’s openers batted out 35 dot deliveries – or nearly six overs – while only scoring 46 runs. Shikhar then accelerated; the left-hander had scored 20 from 25 balls in the first ten overs, but then added 48 from 40 balls in the following overs before his eventual dismissal in the 25th over.
If the platform was set by the openers, the flourish was provided by Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh. Virat walked out to bat at number three in the 25th over, while Yuvraj came out to bat after Rohit Sharma was dismissed in the 37th over. Both employed contrasting styles to reach their half-centuries; while Virat went the conventional way and steadily built his innings, Yuvraj blitzed away to his 52nd half-century in ODIs.
Focus on Virat
The last few months have been difficult times for Virat Kohli. He did not score too many in the Test series against Australia, had to then miss a match because of a shoulder injury, and most-recently had a quiet IPL by his standards. There were also much made about the media reports over his alleged differences between him and coach Anil Kumble in the lead up to the Champions Trophy. Then, as if it needed reminding, there were several posts of his poor record in England.
On Sunday, in a high-stakes match, he put all the difficult times in the back burner and rose to the challenge. It won’t be too far from fact to say he was not too fluent at the start of his innings; but he persevered, took the fight to the opposition and in the end finished with an unbeaten 81. The construction of the innings will give an insight into how Virat had to toil for runs in the early part of his innings; he played well within himself – hitting only two boundaries and having to run hard between the wickets – in the early part of his innings. Thereafter, with the confidence of runs behind him, and with the team needing quick runs, Virat stepped on the gas; after scoring 44 runs from his first 56 balls, he then added 37 from the final 12 deliveries he batted, eventually finishing at 81 from 68 balls.
If Kohli went about his task meticulously, Yuvraj batted fluently from the word go; there was timing, there was the smooth bat-swing, and it just felt good when the ball made contact with Yuvraj’s willow.
The left-hander was given a reprieve when on 8, and he made Pakistan pay for their largesse; he creamed eight boundaries and a six, and raced to his half-century in 29 balls – the fifth fastest half-century in the ICCCT and the fastest by an Indian batsman in the competition.
It was the end-innings acceleration from Virat and Yuvraj – who added 93 runs in 9.4 overs – that gave India hopes of getting close to a total of 300. Courtesy Hardik Pandya’s triple strikes in the last over, India eventually finished with what turned out to be a match-winning 319-3.
Set a revised target of 324 in 48 overs at the start of their innings under the Duckworth/Lewis method, Pakistan were required to chase 289 in 41 overs when play resumed after the day's third rain interruption.
The task proved too much for Sarfraz Ahmed’s team who were bowled out for 164 in 33.4 overs.
Following the result, the teams are locked at 2-2 in the Champions Trophy, but it is India who have won 10 out of the 11 contests at the World Cup and World T20 tournaments between the two sub-continent rivals.