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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

India thrash rivals Pakistan in one-sided Asia Cup contest

Rohit Sharma's side produced an eight-wicket win in a match that ultimately meant little to either side's tournament hopes, although bragging rights were on the line

After all that build up. India against Pakistan in the UAE for the first time in over 12 years. The first time they had met since the titanic Champions Trophy final last year. Cricket’s most important fixture.

Fair to say, this was not worth the wait, the hype, and especially not all that time spent sat in traffic.

There is no such thing as a dead rubber between these two nations. National pride supersedes all.

But the schedulers had done their best to diminish the importance of it. As a competitive fixture, it was pointless.

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The fixture list had already been skewed to dictate that India get to stay where they are for the Super Four stage, sending Pakistan for two matches in Abu Dhabi instead, whatever the outcome. Neither do the points carry through to the next stage.

So as soon as the two sides did the needful against Hong Kong in their respective opening game, the context to this fixture became little more than ceremonial.

At least Indian supporters could revel in the result. It was one-way traffic, much like Hessa Street heading south at about 1pm on match day.

OK, so all it was worth was bragging rights. But so savage was this win, they must surely have inflicted psychological scars ahead of the meeting that matters, when they are reunited in Dubai on Sunday.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar essentially ended the game before it had begun, with a sparkling opening spell with the ball.

He dismissed Imam-ul-Haq then Fakhar Zaman, Pakistan’s champion the last time the sides met, with only three runs on the board at the start of the fifth over.

Bhuvneshwar finished with 3-15. Perhaps of greater alarm from a Pakistan batting standpoint was the fact Kedar Jadhav was permitted to take 3-23 from nine overs of innocuous off-spin, as they posted a paltry total of 162.

“The way the seamers bowled up front gave us more opportunities to take wickets,” Jadhav said. “At the moment we are on the winning side, so it feels good.”

Even on a pitch that was in its second day of use and increasingly dusty, that was never going to be remotely enough.

Captain Rohit Sharma blazed away at the top of the order, scoring a 39-ball 52 that included a six over mid-wicket that measured at 96 metres.

At the other end, Shikhar Dhawan proceeded with a freshness that belied the fact he had batted for 40 overs in extreme heat a day earlier, and fielded for 50, then another 43.1 in this game. He made 46, before driving Faheem Ashraf to Babar Azam at backward point.

To add injury to insult, Shadab Khan, the livewire of the Pakistan side, trudged from the field midway through his second over, with what appeared to be a glute injury.

It was the second time in the first two games of this Asia Cup that a Pakistan bowler had walked from the field mid-over. At least Usman Shinwari managed three wickets against Hong Kong before his premature departure. This time he was ineffectual.

The only conspicuous negative for India was an injury to Hardik Pandya. The all-rounder, who was rested for India’s first game a day earlier, appeared to jar his back while following through bowling the penultimate ball of his fifth over.

He barely moved as he laid on the turf, before being wheeled off the field on a stretcher and receiving treatment for acute lower back pain.

For India, the eight-wicket win was a show of strength ahead of the bigger challenges to follow. For Pakistan, it was a stark reality check.

“It was a poor day, we were below par, and that was very disappointing,” Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s coach, said.

“I thought we were soft. We played outside our roles. We didn’t play well, and it is not good enough.”