by Scyld Berry, Telegraph
India made it six victories out of six against Pakistan in World Cup encounters as they won the mela-cum-melee in Adelaide by 76 runs.
The result is almost irrelevant as both countries are sure to qualify for the quarter-finals. But a lot of bragging rights went to India, again, as the television audience was estimated at one billion viewers.
The fragility of Pakistan’s batting was painfully exposed as they collapsed to 103 for five in pursuit of India’s 300. Such a target was no more than par for this tournament as the first three matches had resulted in totals of more than 300 when New Zealand, Australia and South Africa had batted first.
Pakistan’s batting has long been shown in its worst light when chasing 250-plus targets, and on hard pitches in Australia, not that they had played there for the last five years. Put the two factors together and it was no surprise that their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, was left holding the babies.
One by one Pakistan’s batsmen were bounced out. First it was Younis Khan, a great Test batsman, but his highest score as an ODI opener was four before this strange promotion. He barely improved upon it before gloving a bouncer.
Ahmed Shehzad and Haris Sohail kept Pakistan in the hunt briefly. But India have a variety in their bowling which England can only envy, and they won the game by taking key wickets in mid-innings, with Pakistan’s unwilling compliance.
Ravi Ashwin began with two maidens – gold-dust in ODIs – in his first three overs, and the wicket of Sohail, caught at slip off an offbreak which bounced.
When Umesh Yadav – pacier than anyone England have – was brought back for a second spell, he too illustrated the frailty of Pakistan’s batting in the face of bounce.
Shehzad square-cut to point without rolling his wrists. He had done exactly the same in the warm-up game against England, instead of shelving an idiosyncracy that he could get away with at home but not in Australia.
Sohaib Maqsood steered a ball that bounced, his second, to slip. It was only his 19th ODI innings and, again, his first in Australia: no sort of preparation for this World Cup.
India’s batsmen, on the other hand, have had time to adjust to Australian pitches after two to three months in the country, even if they had failed to win a competitive game. Virat Kohli, in particular, has adjusted to Adelaide: he had scored a century in both innings of the December Test, and followed with another, his 22nd in ODIs.
Not pressing too hard against the new ball, almost cautious, India reached 42 for one from ten overs without any extravagant shots. But Kohli and Shikar Dhawan got on top of a varied attack by running hard between wickets and exploiting Pakistan’s inferior fielding.
Kohli and Dhawan added 129 for India’s second wicket before Dhawan was sent back and run out by a direct hit from Misbah at midwicket. It would have been so different if Yasir Shah had caught Kohli at long-on early, a hard chance off Shahid Afridi.
Kohli was dropped a second time, when 76, off a regulation chance to the wicketkeeper. But this was Umar Akmal, a stop-gap, not their proper keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed: a second experiment which, like Younis opening, failed.
Suresh Raina supplied the improvising and accelerating with his 74 off 56 balls. Along with MS Dhoni and Kohli, he is one of three survivors of the Indian team that won the World Cup in 2011. This time they shape as semi-finalists, alongside Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.