Dubai: A strong bowling performance followed by some power-packed batting saw India thrash arch rivals Pakistan by eight wickets in their Group A clash of the Asia Cup cricket tournament here on Wednesday. Asked to field first, three-wicket hauls from pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav enabled India to restrict Pakistan to a paltry 162. Bhuvneshwar returned figures of 3/15 while Jadhav got 3/23.
In reply, a quickfire half-century by Rohit Sharma and his 86-run opening stand with Shikhar Dhawan saw India comfortably overhaul the target with a whopping 21 overs to spare. Rohit plundered 52 runs off 39 deliveries, hitting six boundaries and three sixes along the way. Dhawan scored 46 runs off 54 balls before a loose shot to a Faheem Ashraf delivery handed an easy catch to Babar Azam at point. Following the duo’s departure, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthick ensured that India crossed the line without losing any more wickets.
Earlier, the Pakistan batsmen never really found any momentum as they lost wickets at regular intervals. Pakistan got off to a slow start and could only manage 25/2 in the first 10 overs. Bhuvneshwar sent back openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman early on to leave Pakistan struggling with two wickets down after 4.1 overs with just two runs on the board. Shoiab Malik and Babar Azam then got going well and negotiated the spin duo of Yuzvendra Chahal — who went wicketless — and Kuldeep well. The pair stitched together an 82-run stand for the third wicket.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav triggered Pakistan’s slide with a brilliantly executed wrong un’ that outfoxed Pakistan’s best batsman Babar Azam (47) when he was looking good along with Shoaib Malik (43). Jadhav removed Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed (6) around the halfway mark of the first innings before accounting for Asif Ali (9) and Shadab Khan (8). That saw Pakistan, who were relatively comfortably placed at 85/2 at one point, collapsing to 121/7.
From then on, Pakistan could never recover as Mohammed Amir (18 not out) and Faheem Ashraf (21) joined hands for a 37-run partnership towards the end before Jasprit Bumrah (2/23) dismissed Ashraf and Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah got rid of Hasan Ali (1) and Usman Khan (0) respectively. Malik hit the first six of the innings in the 13th over off Kuldeep and three overs later got a reprieve when Mahendra Singh Dhoni dropped him behind the stumps off Hardik Pandya.
Moments later, Pandya had to be stretchered off after suffering what turned out to be a lower-back injury during his follow through. Pandya clutched the floor and could not get up, needing attention from the medical team. Just when the partnership seemed to be growing, Kuldeep once again underlined why he is a wily customer and can be unplayable at times with a ripper of a googly that pitched on middle and turned away from the batsman at the last moment to knock over his off-stump.
Malik then was dropped again at deep midwicket off Kuldeep as Bhuvneshwar failed to read a slog sweep in which the ball went high up in the air with the pacer misjuding the direction and over-running. Captain Sarfraz, who had joined Malik at the crease, did not stay long as Manish Pandey took a superb catch at wide long-on off Jadhav. Malik was run out soon after, failing to convert his start into a big one as the slide started for Pakistan. Jadhav then added to his rivals’ misery by picking up the wickets of Asif Ali and Shadab Khan as Pakistan failed to string together partnerships. Amir and Ashraf tried hard to get important runs towards the end but could not bat out the full 50 overs.
Brief scores: Pakistan: 162 in 43.1 overs (Babar Azam 47, Shoaib Malik 43; Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3/15, Kedar Jadhav 3/23) lost to India: 164/2 in 29 overs (Rohit Sharma 52, Shikhar Dhawan 46) by eight wickets.