India 356 for 2 (Kohli 122*, Rahul 111*, Shadab 1-71) beat Pakistan128 (Fakhar 27, Kuldeep 5-25) by 228 runs
KL Rahul outshines expectations with a stunning performance against Pakistan. Initially filling in for the injured Shreyas Iyer, Rahul made a triumphant return on the reserve day, scoring a sensational century. Virat Kohli, on the other hand, did what he does best, adding a century of his own to India’s total of 356 for 2.
In his first ODI since recovering from injury, Jasprit Bumrah discomfited Pakistan’s top order with his remarkable swing and seam movement. He proved to be unplayable at times, while Mohammed Siraj also kept the pressure on with his accuracy. After Bumrah dismissed Imam-ul-Haq, caught in the slips, Hardik Pandya joined in by taking down Babar Azam. A rain delay gave Pakistan some respite, but upon resumption, Kuldeep Yadav added to their woes, finishing with impressive figures of 5 for 25 in eight overs. Pakistan’s Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah did not even come out to bat. India’s victory margin of 228 runs marked the largest ever against Pakistan in ODI cricket (source: ESPN Cricinfo).
Starting the reserve day at 147 for 2 in 24.1 overs, India scored 209 runs in 25.5 overs, all thanks to Rahul and Kohli. This was only the fourth time in ODIs that India’s top four batsmen achieved fifty-plus scores in the same match. With Rauf absent, Pakistan struggled to break the partnership of Rahul and Kohli. Pakistan also faced a scare when Naseem left the field in the 49th over. This was the first time Naseem had gone wicketless in 14 ODIs.
Pakistan missed an opportunity to dismiss Kohli at 60 when Naseem dropped a catch at deep third in the 42nd over. Kohli and Rahul then went on to score 92 runs in the last eight overs of the innings. Kohli finished the innings with an exciting sequence of 4, 4, 6.
During the early part of the innings, Kohli followed his usual ODI pattern of accumulating runs through risk-free singles and twos. Overall, only 54 runs came from boundaries in his score of 122.
Rahul, however, started the reserve day with a flurry of boundaries. He hit Afridi so hard that even Shadab Khan couldn’t hold onto the ball at backward point. Shadab and part-time spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, replacing Rauf, faced punishment from Rahul. Kohli also took advantage of Iftikhar, leaving him with figures of 5.4-0-52-0.
Rahul showcased a variety of shots, including sweeps and trips down the pitch to unsettle Pakistan’s spinners. He even imitated Kohli by hitting Shadab over midwicket with a bottom wrist shot. When Rahul reached his century off a run-a-ball, he closed his eyes in relief while looking up at the sky. Kohli celebrated with more enthusiasm and became the fastest player to reach 13,000 ODI runs along the way.
Rahul did not start as the wicketkeeper but took over from Ishan Kishan in the seventh over. He also had a decent stint behind the stumps, except for missing a sharp chance off Kuldeep’s wrong ‘un. Bumrah, after bowling in the powerplay, spent some time off the field for undisclosed reasons. It remains to be seen if India will rotate players for their match against Sri Lanka on Tuesday, as it will be their third consecutive day of play.
By the time Babar was bowled by Hardik, Pakistan’s required run rate had already climbed to almost eight. Kuldeep further dismantled Pakistan’s batting lineup by dismissing Fakhar Zaman for 27 off 50 balls. None of Pakistan’s other batters scored more than 25. Kuldeep showcased his skills with a variety of deliveries, allowing only two boundaries and securing his second five-wicket haul in ODIs. However, Pakistan’s numbers 10 and 11 were absent hurt, denying Kuldeep the chance for more wickets.
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