Kohli assault powers India to an extraordinary win
Apart from Kohli`s career-best knock, his second century in the tournament, Rohit Sharma (68) and Sachin Tendulkar (52) were the other notable contributors as India eclipsed their highest successful run chase of 326 for eight against England at the Lords in the NatWest Cup final in 2002. It was a stunning assault by the young Kolhi who smashed 22 boundaries and one six while Tendulkar also gave ample display of his vintage form during his knock. Rohit also marked his return to form with some glorious shots.
The outstanding batting display by the Indians completely overshadowed the centuries of the two Pakistan openers Nasir Jamshed (112) and Mohammad Hafeez (105) who stitched a record 224-run opening partnership. But their efforts went in vain. India, whose Asia Cup campaign was thrown into disarray after their upset five-wicket defeat against minnows Bangladesh, will now have to await the result of the last league match between Sri Lanka and Bangladeshon Tuesday.
If Sri Lanka wins, India will go into the final but a Sri Lankan defeat will ensure that Bangladesh take on Pakistan in the final on March 22. As per the rules, if two teams are tied on points, head to head record will be considered, so Bangladesh will go into the final as they had beaten India in their league match. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit Umar Gul to the boundary to bring about India`s victory, triggering off scenes of celebrations in the dressing roo,
The Indian run chase began on a disastrous note as Gautam Gambhir was dismissed in the very second ball of the innings with spinner Mohammad Hafeez getting the scalp. Undeterred by the early setback, Tendulkar and Kohli unleashed a flurry of strokes to maintain a very good run rate. With the burden of the 100th international ton off his shoulders, Tendulkar seemed to be in a more relaxed frame of mind and an upper cut six off Umar Gul brought back memories of his vintage days.
The pair brought about the 100-run partnership in 92 balls to keep India in the hunt while Kohli notched up his half century soon after by cutting Saeed Ajmal to the boundary. In the next over off Wahab Riaz, Tendulkar posted his 96th ODI half century off just 45 balls. Just when the partnership was assuming dangerous proportions, spinner Ajmal provided the vital breakthrough by evicting Tendulkar who seemed to be in sublime touch.
It was the `doosra` which consumed Tendulkar as he went forward but only succeeded in edging the ball to Younis Khan at first slip. His knock of 52 came off 48 balls and contained five boundaries and a six. Rohit Sharma, who joined the action after Tendulkar`s dismissal, was a trifle tentative in the initial stages which brought down the scoring rate to some extent. But gradually he started playing his strokes. Kohli brought about his 11th ODI century by taking a single off Hafeez, completing the ton of 97 balls and with the help of 11 boundaries.
Earlier, Hafeez (105) and Jamshed (112) stitched a record 224-run opening partnership to lay the foundation as the Indian attack wore a pedestrian look throughout the innings while below par fielding in the initial part only added to the woes. The opening stand is Pakistan`s highest against India eclipsing Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail`s opening stand of 144 in Singapore, back in 1996. The 50 of the Pakistani nnings came in the 10th over and 100 in the 18th over as Dhoni`s bowlers looked clueless in the wake of the onslaught.
While Praveen`s lack of pace on a slow pitch became his undoing, Irfan time and again drifted on the pads as both Jamshed and Hafeez gleefully kept clipping those deliveries at will. Dhoni even tried to use four spinners– all off-spinners Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma. The one-dimensional spin-attack also went for runs. Hafeez hit Pathan Senior for a big six over square leg. The only chance during the phase came when Jamshed misjudged a flighted delivery from Tendulkar as he committed to the stroke a bit early. The ball came at great speed and bounced off Tendulkar`s palms as he injured a finger in the process. Jamshed was on 69 then.
After that, the batsmen hardly took any risks as they went about doing their job in a thoroughly professional manner. Hafeez reached his fourth ODI hundred pushing Praveen to mid-off and scampering home for a quick single. The 200 also came up in the same over — 33rd of the innings. In the 35th over, Jamshed completed his maiden ODI ton pushing Praveen towards mid-wicket. He reached his ton off 98 balls with nine hits to the fence. After reaching his century, the southpaw lifted Praveen over deep square leg.
When Jamshed was finally dismissed by Ashwin in the 36th over, the pair were four runs short of equalling the highest-ever opening stand of 228 for Pakistan recorded by Imran Farhat and Hafeez in Harare, back in 2011. Jamshed went for a slog sweep only to top-edge at short third-man where Irfan latched onto the ball on second attempt. Jamshed hit 10 fours and a sixin his 104-ball knock. Ashok Dinda who bowled a good first four overs finally got a wicket as Hafeez missed his slower delivery and was rapped on the pads.
Hafeez had nine fours and six in his 113 ball knock. At 225 for two, Umar Akmal ( 28, 24 balls) and Younis Khan (52, 34 balls, 6×4) joined hands adding 48 runs in quick time before Akmal was holed out to short fine-leg. Younis scored a quickfire 50 off 33 balls before a stunning one-handed catch by Raina saw his back. The score could have reached 350 but Indian bowlers restricted them in the slog overs. The Indian bowling, which has copped a lot of flak in recent times, could not put up an improved show as most of the bowlers couldn`t stick to one line.