10 December 2023

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India retain perfect World Cup record v Pakistan

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India retain perfect World Cup record v Pakistan

(Reuters) :India steamrollered Pakistan by seven wickets in a lopsided blockbuster match at a heaving Narendra Modi Stadium on Saturday to maintain their unblemished 50-overs World Cup record against their arch-rivals.

The western Indian city had been in the grip of cricket fever ahead of the tournament’s most anticipated match, and India got themselves in the driving seat early by bundling out their opponents for 191 inside 43 overs.

With Babar Azam (50) and Mohammad Rizwan (49) in the middle, a total of around 300 looked within Pakistan’s reach, only for them to collapse in a heap, failing to last their full 50 overs.

India’s skipper Rohit Sharma led the chase with a blistering 86, and the two-time champions eventually romped home in 30.3 overs to maintain their unbeaten record against Pakistan in the history of the tournament.

They also joined 2019 runners-up New Zealand as the only two teams to win their first three matches in the tournament so far, achieving the feat in front of a delighted 100,000-plus crowd.

“There is no doubt about it that the bowlers set up the game for us again today,” Rohit said.

“It was a great effort. I don’t think it was a 190 pitch.”

India went into the match with a perfect 7-0 record against their neighbours, but there was no early sign of Pakistan’s eventual collapse after being put in to bat.

Imam-ul-Haq (36) hit Mohammed Siraj for three fours in an over to silence the crowd, who finally found their voice in the eighth over when Siraj trapped Abdullah Shafique lbw for 20.

Imam then proved unable to convert his solid start, falling to Hardik Pandya before Babar and Rizwan combined in an 82-run stand to calm the nerves in the Pakistan dressing room.

At 155-2 in the 30th over, Pakistan appeared set for a 300-plus total with their two batting mainstays on song.

But then, and seemingly out of the blue, a nightmare unfolded for the 1992 champions in just 80 balls as they lost every one of their remaining eight wickets for 36 runs.

Siraj clean-bowled Babar to trigger the collapse, and Jasprit Bumrah castled Rizwan with a slow off-cutter to knock the stuffing out of Pakistan’s batting lineup.

Between those two dismissals, left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav sent down a two-wicket over, taking out Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed, to wreck Pakistan’s middle order.

Rohit immediately set the tone for India’s chase, flicking the first ball of the innings from Shaheen Afridi to the deep square leg fence.

Shubman Gill (16) smacked four fours before slashing hard at an Afridi delivery, and Shadab Khan leapt at point to take a sharp catch.

Rohit was unstoppable though, pulling Afridi over the ropes and hitting Haris Rauf for two sixes in the bowler’s first over.

He took his foot off the gas after Virat Kohli’s (16) early exit, but still needed only 36 deliveries to bring up his fifty.

A second successive hundred looked on the cards but the captain, who smashed six sixes and as many fours in his 63-ball blitz, was deceived by a slow off-cutter from Afridi and flashed a catch to Iftikhar Ahmed at midwicket.

That left it to Shreyas Iyer to seal the win with a four that took him past his half-century to 53 not out.

“We were playing normally but then we had a collapse in the middle order. We did not finish well,” Babar said of their batting.

“The way we started, we were targeting 280 or 290 but the collapse cost us.”

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