IANS

K.L. Rahul made a stunning comeback to international cricket with a classy century while Virat Kohli combined astute running between the wickets with dazzling strokeplay to hit his fourth ODI century in as many innings at the R. Premadasa Stadium as India posted a mammoth 356/2 against Pakistan in the Super Four match at Asia Cup on Monday.

If Sunday saw Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma pulverize the Pakistan bowling attack by hitting quick fifties in a 121-run opening stand, then Monday belonged to Rahul and Kohli, who slammed unbeaten knocks of 111 and 122 respectively while sharing a huge 233-run stand for the third wicket.

The Rahul-Kohli stand of 233 runs is the highest partnership by any Indian pair in the Asia Cup, as the side also posted its highest score against Pakistan in ODIs. 

While Rahul was at his fluent best in attacking the spinners and opening up in the fag end, Kohli was excellent in his shots, acceleration and strike rotation to

With Haris Rauf absent due to a little discomfort in his right flank, it hurt Pakistan big time as the Rahul-Kohli combination put the bowlers firmly under the pump, with sloppy fielding not helping their cause. It was also the fourth time in ODIs that India’s top four batters made at least 50+ runs.

Play began on the reserve day at 4:40 pm after rain forced a delay in the start of the proceedings. Kohli and Rahul started the boundary flow by taking a four each off Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi respectively. 

In between, Pakistan lost their last review over a catch of Kohli which replays showed took an edge off his thigh pad, as the partnership between Rahul and Kohli crossed the 50-run mark.

As soon as part-time off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed came in, Rahul’s eyes lit up -- a slog-sweep went for a six, followed by a cut for four. He would loft off Ahmed for four, followed by Kohli steering him for the second boundary of the over.

After reaching his fifty, Rahul then put leg-spinner, Shadab Khan, straightaway under pressure, sweeping him for four and playing the shot of the match –- dancing down the pitch to slam a wristy loft over wide long-on for six.

Kohli was in his usual flow, reaching his half-century in 55 balls and making the most out of a weakened Pakistan bowling line-up, mixing hitting boundaries with ease and taking ones and twos with relative ease.

He signalled a shift in gears by taking Ahmed to cleaners in the 43rd over -– effortlessly flicking him for six and rocking back to pull through mid-wicket for four. 

Rahul then cut and smacked Faheem Ashraf for two boundaries before taking a brace off Naseem Shah to complete a stunning sixth ODI century.

In the next over, Kohli would become the fastest batter to reach 13,000 ODI runs and achieve his 47th ODI century on his 84th delivery, with Rahul taking two more boundaries off Shaheen.

Pakistan’s day went from bad to worse as Naseem went off the field, holding his hand after bowling the second ball of the 49th over. Iftikhar bowled the rest of the deliveries and was hit for a four by Kohli.

Kohli lined up to play a ramp shot off Faheem in the final over but just sliced past the third man at the last minute. He then slashed him over cover for another boundary off the free-hit, before dancing down the pitch and smacking a straight bat loft down the ground for a massive six, as the crowd went ecstatic on seeing the grandstand finish.

Brief scores: 

India 356/2 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 122 not out, K.L. Rahul 111 not out; Shadab Khan 1-71, Shaheen Shah Afridi 1-79) against Pakistan

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