India 356 for 2 (Kohli 122*, Rahul 111*, Shadab 1-71) beat Pakistan128 (Fakhar 27, Kuldeep 5-25) by 228 runs
KL Rahul wasn’t supposed to start against Pakistan. After Shreyas Iyer suffered back spasms during the warm-ups, he replaced him on Sunday and on Monday, the reserve day, he announced his return with a sensational hundred. At the other end, Virat Kohli did his thing, bringing up a century of his own, as India piled up 356 for 2.
Jasprit Bumrah, bowling in ODIs for the first time after his injury break then discomfited Pakistan’s top order with vicious swing and seam movement. He was unplayable at various points while Mohammed Siraj also ramped up the pressure on Pakistan with his accuracy. After Bumrah had Imam-ul-Haq caught in the slips, Hardik Pandya joined the party by storming through Babar Azam’s defences. A rain delay then gave Pakistan respite, but upon resumption Kuldeep Yadav compounded their woes. The left-arm wristspinner finished with 5 for 25 in eight overs, with neither Haris Rauf or Naseem Shah walking out to bat for Pakistan. The margin of victory – 228 runs – was the biggest for India against Pakistan in ODI cricket.
Resuming from an overnight 147 for 2 in 24.1 overs, India pumped 209 in 25.5 overs on Monday, with Rahul and Kohli responsible for all of those. This was only the fourth instance of India’s top four making fifty-plus scores in ODIs. In the absence of Rauf, who was out of action on the reserve day as a precautionary measure, Pakistan couldn’t separate Rahul and Kohli. Pakistan then suffered another scare when Naseem left the field in the 49th over. This was the first time that Naseem has gone wicketless in 14 ODIs.
Pakistan could have cut Kohli’s innings short at 60 had Naseem not misjudged a catch at deep third in the 42nd over. Kohli and Rahul proceeded to smash 92 together off the last eight overs of the innings. Kohli finished the innings with a thrilling sequence of 4,4,6.
In the early half of the innings, Kohli had followed his usual ODI template of accumulating in risk-free fashion with singles and twos. Overall, boundaries only contributed only 54 runs to his 122.
Rahul, though, had started the reserve day with a flurry of boundaries. He slapped Afridi so hard that even Shadab Khan couldn’t cling onto the ball at backward point. Shadab and part-time spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, who was filling in for Rauf, then copped punishment from Rahul. Kohli also lined up Iftikhar and left him nursing figures of 5.4-0-52-0.
Rahul played a number of sweeps and often took trips down the pitch to disrupt Pakistan’s spinners. He even pulled off an impersonation of Kohli when he launched Shadab over midwicket with the bottom wrist. When he reached a run-a-ball century, he closed his eyes and looked skywards in relief. Kohli’s celebration was more exuberant and, along the way, he became the fastest player to 13,000 ODI runs.
Rahul didn’t take the field for the start of India’s defence, but at the start of the seventh over he returned to the field to take over the keeping gloves from Ishan Kishan. Later in the night, Rahul missed a sharp chance off a wrong ‘un from Kuldeep, but otherwise he got a decent workout behind the stumps too. After bowling five overs in the powerplay, Bumrah spent some time off the field, too, for unspecified reasons. It remains to be seen whether India rotate their players when they end up playing on a third successive day, against Sri Lanka, on Tuesday.
By the time, Hardik had castled Babar on Monday with a wobble-seam inducker, Pakistan’s required run rate was almost eight. It had shot past nine by the time Kuldeep cleaned up Fakhar Zaman for 27 off 50 balls. No other Pakistan batter passed 25 in the chase. Kuldeep carved up the middle order with his stock balls, wrong ‘uns and sliders. He gave up only two boundaries and claimed his second five-wicket haul in ODIs. He looked good for more, but Pakistan’s Nos. 10 and 11 were out absent hurt.