NEW DELHI: India opened their World Cup title defence on a winning note by defeating arch-rivals Pakistan by 76 runs in their Pool B match at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
With this fabulous victory, India continued their winning run against Pakistan in World Cup encounters, registering their sixth win on the trot in as many encounters, as India bowled and fielded brilliantly to defend a 300-run total.
Indian pacers, who have faced some flak recently for their poor performances, brilliantly rose to the occasion even as Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq hit 76 to keep his team in the hunt, but in the end he ran out of partners and his was the ninth wicket to fall.
Mohammed Shami took four wickets, while Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma scalped two each as India bowled out Pakistan for 224 runs in 47 overs.
Earlier, Virat Kohli got back to form with a skillful century as India posted a competitive 300/7.
Electing to bat on a warm afternoon, Kohli continued his love affair with the Adelaide Oval as he hit a composed 107 off 126 balls with eight boundaries.
Pakistan’s death bowling needs to be complimented as their young fast bowler Sohail Khan (5/55) checked the Indian surge.
India wobbled in the last five overs, losing five wickets for only 27 runs which stopped them short of the projected score of 325.
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 Shikhar Dhawan (73) and Suresh Raina (74), 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 1 inch tall Mohammad 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 authoritative 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 Kohli’s 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 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 leg-spinner 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 came back to form but also provided the necessary platform for the Men in Blue.