Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan both hit centuries as India reached new levels of Asia Cup domination in thrashing Pakistan in Dubai.
India’s captain and vice-captain respectively shared a stand of 210 for the first wicket, as they meted out a nine-wicket beating to their fiercest rivals in the Super Four at the Dubai International Stadium.
On the eve of the match, Pakistan had expressed the need to make early inroads in the India batting if they were to have a chance of avenging their group-stage defeat to the same opposition.
The opposite happened, as the in-form openers savaged Pakistan’s beleaguered bowling attack.
Dhawan was the first to get to three figures. It required a run out – on a rare occasion when he and Rohit were not perfectly in sync - to dismiss him. He made 114 off 100 balls.
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Rohit passed 7,000 ODI runs on his way to his 19th century in the format. He was handed a life, as Pakistan’s abject fielding form from two nights earlier against Afghanistan in Abu Dhabi – where they dropped five catches – continued.
Rohit was dropped on 81 by Fakhar Zaman at mid-wicket off Shadab Khan’s bowling. That sparked a volcanic eruption from Hasan Ali, who threw his cap to the ground in livid fashion at short-third man. As an expression of Pakistani emotions at that moment in time, it felt entirely appropriate.
“We all know how important the first 10 overs are, and if we don’t lose a wicket in the first 10 overs, it puts us in the driving seat,” Rohit said.
“We know that chasing becomes a little easier after that. We wanted to keep it going as long as possible as we knew that a new batsman would find it difficult to keep it going straight away.
“It was important for me and Shikhar to keep it going as long as possible.”
Ambati Rayudu hit the winning runs, to celebrate his 33rd birthday in style, as victory was sealed with over 10 overs to spare.
At least Pakistan had provided more fight with the bat than they had in last Wednesday’s group match.
Whereas they capitulated to a meagre 162 all out in that game, at least they managed to accrue 237 for seven from their 50 overs this time around.
They were again indebted to their most experienced player, Shoaib Malik, for getting that many. The player who guided them to a nervy, three-wicket win over Afghanistan last time out this time contributed 78.
Scoring was generally tough, though, first against the wiles of the wrist-spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvenrda Chahal, each of whom took two wickets, and then against the death-overs brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah.
The 24-year-old seamer finished the innings by conceding just 15 runs from the four overs he bowled at one end. He took the wicket of Malik, and that of Shadab Khan, in the same spell.
“Our strike-rates were not good enough with the bat, and with the ball, you have to strike early,” Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, said.
“When you let these guys get in on a pitch like this, they dominate you. We have to be realistic, we were very well beaten by a very good India team. They didn’t let us play. We are developing. We are certainly not abandoning these boys.”
Pakistan can still qualify for a rematch with India in Friday’s final. If India beat Afghanistan in Dubai on Tuesday, Pakistan need to beat Bangladesh in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to make the final.