ADELAIDE: Defending champions India launched their World Cup campaign in style as they produced a clinical performance to spank Pakistan by 76 runs, maintaining their unbeaten record against the arch-rivals in the mega event on Sunday.
In the high-voltage contest between the bitter rivals, India again emerged victorious in a rather one-sided affair, thus maintaining their magnificent record against Pakistan by winning the sixth consecutive World Cup game since the rivalry started way back in 1992.
Full Coverage: ICC World Cup 2015
It was a commendable all-round effort by Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men who first posted a competitive total of 300/7 riding on Virat Kohli’s 22nd ODI hundred and then dismissed the opposition for 224 in 47 overs at the Adelaide Oval to secure two points.
Mohammad Shami (4/35), Umesh Yadav (2/50), Mohit Sharma (2/35) and Ravichandran Ashwin (1/41) were the pick of the Indian bowlers as they kept taking wickets to put pressure on the Pakistani batsmen. Captain Misbah-ul Haq (76), Ahmed Shehzad (47) and Haris Sohail (36) were the notable contributors.
Mohit Sharma took the last wicket of Sohail Khan to bring about India’s moment of glory, sending the seizable Indian crowd at the stadium into a frenzy while the players hugged each other to celebrate the triumph, their first victory in Australia since landing here in November last year.
Pakistan were well placed at 102 for two at one stage but a middle-order collapse effected by the trio of Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Yadav ended any hopes that Misbah-ul-Haq and his men harboured of bucking the trend of losing to India in big-ticket ICC events.
Electing to bat, Virat Kohli marked his return to form with a crafty 107 while Shikhar Dhawan (73) and Suresh Raina (74) were the other notable performers to steer India to a competitive total of 300 for seven in hot conditions.
Kohli continued his love affair with the Adelaide Oval as his century knock came off 126 balls with eight boundaries and he shared a 110-run partnership with Raina for the third wicket.
India could have got a bigger score had it not been for some excellent death bowling by the Pakistani pace bowlers. Their young fast bowler Sohail Khan (5/55) checked the Indian surge by bowling a tight line and length.
Virat Kohli became the first Indian batsman to hit a century against Pakistan in the World Cup. (Reuters Photo)
While Pakistan could never force the pace, they lost the match between the 24th and 25th over losing three wickets for only 1 run.
From 102 for 2 at the start of 24th over, they slumped to 103 for five with Yadav getting two wickets and Jadeja getting one. The phase saw Ahmed Shehzad (47), Sohaib Maqsood (0) and Umar Akmal (0) getting out in quick succession.
But this was only possible because of the pressure created by Ashwin, who kept on probing with a disciplined line and length.
Misbah (76 off 83 balls) again fought gamely but it was for a losing cause.
Umesh, who was used by Dhoni in short spells as he rattled the Pakistani batsmen with sheer pace despite occasional loose deliveries while Shami maintained better discipline as he picked wickets when it mattered most.
Earlier, Virat Kohli got back to form with a skillful century as he anchored India to a competitive 300 for seven after Dhoni elected to bat.
En route his 22nd ODI century, Kohli joined Sourav Ganguly as the second highest century maker for India in ODIs with only Sachin Tendulkar (49) ahead of him. But he did eclipse Tendulkar’s highest individual score (98) by an Indian against Pakistan in any World Cup game.
Along with Dhawan and Raina, the trio pulverized a Pakistan bowling attack which ran out of ideas by the 20th over itself.
What Dhawan and Kohli started with a bang was finished with a flourish due to Raina’s 56-ball knock that had five fours and three sixes.
Raina upped the ante as soon as he came in as he carted the Pakistani bowlers in the arc between square leg and deep mid-wicket. All his sixes were hit in that particular region as the opposition attack ran short of ideas.
Much depended on the 7 feet tall Mohammed Irfan (0/56 in 10 overs) but Indian batsmen’s meticulous homework and Pakistan’s lack of it were evident during the Kohli-Dhawan partnership.
It was patient yet authorative knock from Kohli, where he built his innings brick-by-brick rather than playing scintillating shots. It wasn’t a flurry of boundaries but liberal sprinklings of ones and twos with the boundaries interspersed in-between.
The testimony to his patience was his first 50 came off 60 balls while the second 50 took as many 59 deliveries.
The foundation of the innings was his 129-run second wicket stand with Dhawan, who also found form with an attractive 73 off 76 balls that had seven fours and a six.
If Kohli-Dhawan did the consolidation, the Kohli-Raina stand of 110 off 15.3 overs helped them get to a substantial total. When Kohli was finally caught behind off pacer Sohail Khan, he had done his job and fittingly got a standing ovation from the capacity crowd.
Kohli started off with a pull in-front of square off Sohail Khan and the next boundary was a paddle sweep when Shahid Afridi strayed on the leg-side. There was an inside out lofted shot over extra cover off leggie Yasir Shah.
He used his feet to perfection against Yasir and left-arm spinner Harris Sohail. He was dropped on 76 by wicketkeeper Umar Akmal off Harris.
The giant-sized Irfan was guilty of bowling either over-pitched deliveries or short balls which Dhawan dealt with a lot of ferocity at the onset.
Dhawan, on the other hand looked assured against both Irfan and Sohail. He started with a square cut off Sohail and then played the perfect hook shot as Irfan dug one short. The back and across movement happened in a flash and it was over fine leg boundary.
The Pakistani bowlers were guilty of not bowling the probing outswingers shade outside the off-stump channel to Dhawan – an area where his technique was found to be suspect.
Even the seasoned Wahab Riaz tried the short-ball tactic but Dhawan was quick to hook him behind square for a boundary.
Dhawan was unlucky when Kohli’s wrong call saw him get run-out but by then he not only come back to form but also provided the necessary platform needed.