x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Sharma blasts India to warm-up victory over Pakistan

India underline their status as the ICC World Twenty20 favourites with a crushing nine-wicket win over Pakistan.

LONDON // India underlined their status as the ICC World Twenty20 favourites with a crushing nine-wicket win over Pakistan at the Brit Oval. A ruthless performance with the bat allowed India to cruise to their target of 159 with 18 balls to spare. Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir scored 80 and 52 respectively to beat Pakistan, who had been looking to avenge their 2007 final defeat against their rivals. Pakistan had earlier looked to be in a strong position after they picked apart India's pace attack of RP Singh and Praveen Kumar. Misbah ul Haq (37 not out) and Yasir Arafat (25 not out) smashed 45 off 27 balls after Ahmed Shahzad (25) and Kamran Akmal (19) had set them on their way. Younus Khan also chipped in with a quick-fire 32 before being removed by Harbhajan Singh. But India set about chasing their opponents' total in emphatic fashion with Sharma and Gambhir giving the 23,000 sell-out crowd a masterclass in destructive stroke play. Yasir Arafat took particular punishment as he was dispatched for 25 off his opening three overs. Umar Gul was also made to pay for his wayward bowling and was hit to the boundary four times before being hauled off by Younus after just two overs. Younus changed his attack but neither of the four new bowlers, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanvir, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Aamer, could stop Sharma and Gambhir from finding the boundary and racing towards the Pakistan total. The pair brought up the 100 off 71 balls with Sharma reaching his 50 in the 11th over off just 37 deliveries. India were scoring at more than eight an over by the time Sharma pulled Afridi over midwicket for six to take the score to 116 without loss. Aamer then got the breakthrough in the 17th over when his short ball was mistimed by Sharma, who sent the ball high into the air before being caught brilliantly by Shahzad at midwicket. Gambhir reached his 50 in the 17th over before he and MS Dhoni steered India to victory.

* PA Sport