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You are here: Cricket T20 Internationals India coast to a comfortable 8 wicket win against Pakistan to keep semi-final hopes alive

India coast to a comfortable 8 wicket win against Pakistan to keep semi-final hopes alive

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virat_kohliTeam India bounced back from the thrashing they received at the hands of Australia to cruise to a facile 8 wicket win against arch-enemies, Pakistan on Sunday night. This victory not only maintained India's hundred percent record versus Pakistan in Word Cup's but also kept India's chances of reaching the semi-finals alive. The key to India's success was their icy cool approach and much better big game temperament. India's collective bowling brilliance skittled out Pakistan for an appalling 128. The only saving grace in Pakistan's effort was the 47 run partnership between Shoaib Malik (28) and Umar Akmal (21). While Lakshimpathy Balaji topped the wickets charts with 3 scalps, spin wizard Ravi Ashwin and part-timer Yuvraj Singh bagged 2 apiece. Chasing 129, the Men in Blue cantered to an easy victory with over 3 overs in the hand. Man of the Match, Virat Kohli was yet again the architect of an Indian chase, constructing a classy 78 embellished with 8 fours and 2 sixes. Notably, there were echoes of Sachin Tendulkar in Kohli's body balance, precise footwork and pin-point timing.

The toss of the coin went Pakistan's way and Mohammad Hafeez elected to bat first, investing immense confidence in his 'varied bowling attack' to derail the famed Indian batting in the chase. India discarded their 5 bowler theory, axing Piyush Chawla to pave way for senior opening batsman, Virender Sehwag, who was expected to be reunited with fellow Delhiite, Gautam Gambhir at the top of the batting-sheet. The other change from the Indian camp was that Lakshmipathy Balaji replaced Harbhajan Singh. The hitherto unbeaten Pakistan retained the XI that snatched victory from South Africa with Sohail Tanvir being overlooked once again.

The very first over highlighted the razzmatazz surrounding the India-Pakistan rivalry. It had everything - Imran Nazir cracked a four past point, he played and missed, Zaheer leaked 6 runs via wides and the last delivery saw Sehwag drop Mohammad Hafeez at first slip. Irfan Pathan, back with the new ball, trapped Nazir(8) leg before to draw first blood in the next over. In a move to unsettle the Indian bowlers, the Pakistan think-tank bumped up Shahid Afridi (14) to Number 3. Afridi's funky shots briefly threatened the Men in Blue before Lakshmipathy Balaji caused the pinch-hitter to hole out to Suresh Raina, stationed at deep square leg. The new man, Nasir Jamshed(4) swung wildly at a Yuvraj Singh delivery only to nick it to Dhoni behind the sticks. Pakistan were in early strife at 44-3 from 7 overs.

Pakistan's implosion continued as the Man with the golden arm, Yuvraj weaved magic to force the dangerous Kamran Akmal (5) back to the hutch. Coincidentally the speakers blared, 'We will, we will, rock you'! The Indian rockstars were definitely rocking. India's agile fielding did not help the green army's cause either.

Mohammad Hafeez (15), unable to withstand the relentless pressure, chopped an innocuous Virat Kohli ball back onto his leg-stump. Hafeez's stay was one of the scratchiest ever. Despite exhausting the 5th bowler's quota, Dhoni opted for an extra over from Kohli. Sensing an escape route, Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal pocketed 15 runs including two boundaries from that over. The duo showing signs of urgency, rallied to resurrect the innings.

Malik's batsmanship bore a precedence of substance over style though one would argue that both were present in generous measures. Just when Malik (28) appeared to have found his zone, Ravi Ashwin had the veteran caught at short mid-wicket, thus breaking the 47-run-6th wicket stand. Moments later, Ashwin scalped Umar Akmal to foil Pakistan's late push. The way the Chennai Super King employed his trajectory was rather commendable. For all those who doubted Yuvi's fitness, the Punjab Prince produced a spectacular direct hit to run-out Yasir Arafat (8) in the penultimate over. Pakistan couldn't even last the stipulated quota of 20 overs, and were wiped out for a paltry 128.

Pakistan's gamble of opening the bowling with tyro tweaker, Raza Hasan paid rich dividends as he got rid of Gautam Gambhir for naught. The early loss of India's best player of spin sparked off celebrations in the large Pakistani contingent in the crowd. While the in-form Kohli duly rotated the strike, Virender Sehwag came into his own thanks to a couple of loosners. At the end of the mandatory powerplay India had scored 36 with 9 wickets in the kitty.

Virat Kohli's sensational form came to the fore when he lofted Afridi over long-off and cover drove Arafat. Kohli could pile on the runs even if he were blind-folded at the crease. Against the run of play, Afridi accounted for Viru with the back-pedaling Gul gobbling up a tricky catch. In the interim, Umar Akmal spilled a difficult catch to give Kohli a life.

Cashing in, the 23 year old notched up his 4th T20I fifty in the 12th over. He neutralized Saeed Ajmal, infact he handled the ODI and T20 World Number 1 spinner with uncommon aplomb.

Mohammad Hafeez wilted under the pressure and resorted to ultra-defensive tactics. The writing was on the wall for Pakistan, and it became bold and clear with every passing ball. Kohli (78*) and Yuvraj (18*) hastened Pakistan's demise with a flurry of fours. Eventually, India closed out the game with 8 wickets to spare and with 18 balls to spare.

What this morale boosting win would also do is uplift India's net-run rate. A triumph on Friday against an out of form South Africa would all but guarantee a semi-final berth for the Men in Blue. Pakistan, who suffered from anxiety from start to finish will look to pick themselves up when they face the Awesome Aussies on the same day. Group 2 has been well and truly thrown open.

Teams:

India: G Gambhir, V Sehwag, V Kohli, Y Singh, R Sharma, S Raina, MS Dhoni (c & wk), I Pathan, R Ashwin, L Balaji, Z Khan

Pakistan: I Nazir, M Hafeez (c), N Jamshed, K Akmal (wk), S Malik, U Akmal, S Afridi, U Gul, Y Arafat, S Ajmal, R Hasan

Mini Scorecard:

Pakistan: 128 all out (19.4 overs, 6.50 rpo)
S Malik 28(22)  L Balaji 3-22
U Akmal 21(18) R Ashwin 2-16

India: 129-2 (17 overs, 7.58 rpo)
V Kohli 78* (61) R Hazan 1-22
V Sehwag 29 (24) S Afridi 1-34

India won by 8 wickets

File Photograph Copyright: Michael Henn