Virat Kohli leads India to crushing 124-run win over Pakistan

Defending champions make strong statement in opening game

India captain Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Pakistan’s Azhar Ali during the Champions Trophy game at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Photograph:  Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

India captain Virat Kohli celebrates the wicket of Pakistan’s Azhar Ali during the Champions Trophy game at Edgbaston in Birmingham. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters/Livepic

 

India kicked off their Champions Trophy defence with a crushing 124-run victory over a ragged Pakistan, who were broken by Virat Kohli in front of a global audience of up to a billion.

Worldwide interest in the Asian derby, last played in the one-day format at the 2015 World Cup, dwarfs that of the Champions League final, but aside from Kohli’s glorious strokeplay at the end of the Indian innings the excitement of a cacophonous capacity crowd at Edgbaston was not matched by a quality contest in the middle.

Kohli’s unbeaten 81 hit all the right notes as India plundered 117 from their last 10 overs, 72 of which came from the final 24 deliveries, on their way to a winning score of 319 for three.

But Pakistan were passive opponents, dreadful in the field, flaky under crucial catches and unable to mount a credible chase when asked to pursue 289 in 41 overs on Duckworth/Lewis after a series of rain delays.

To add injury to insult, key seamers Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz limped out of an already limited attack and the latter was unfit to bat, leaving his team 164 for nine at the close.

By the time they donated a succession of wickets to seal their defeat they looked every inch a team ready to take their leave, not just of this contest but the competition as a whole.

Rohit Sharma outscored Kohli at the head of the Indian innings, making 91, but chewed up 63 dot balls and advanced at a modest strike-rate of 76.

Yuvraj Singh’s ebullient 53 proved better entertainment, though he was dropped by Hasan Ali on eight and Kohli WAS reprieved on 47 as Pakistan botched the basics.

Pakistan had won the toss and, after a minute’s silence for the London terror attack, saw Amir send down a brilliant first over. It was all downhill from there.

The fielding gaffes began almost immediately, Ahmed Shehzad fluffing a regulation stop at point, as Sharma and Dhawan cantered along to a 136-run stand under almost no pressure.

Both batsmen reached 50 in style, Sharma smearing Shadab Khan for six and Dhawan taking three consecutive fours off the wayward Wahab.

When the breakthrough came it required a juicy full-toss from Shadab and an ill-directed swipe from Dhawan.

Kohli’s arrival drew a predictably ear-splitting reaction but Sharma had begun to weigh down the innings and it was not until he was run out that India hit top gear.

Kohli and Yuvraj piled on 93 at almost 10 an over as all trace of Pakistani discipline evaporated and Amir, followed by Wahab, pulled up lame.

When Yuvraj departed lbw to Hasan it led to another upping of the ante, Kohli unfurling three sixes and three fours in a savage 11-ball interval before Hardik Pandya clubbed Imad Wasim for three sixes in as many balls in the 48th and final over.

Pakistan’s chase was twice interrupted by the weather but their prospects never looked bright.

Azhar Ali was game enough for the fight, keeping the scorers busy with a neat array of scoring shots that earned him a plucky half-century but support was minimal.

Shehzad and Babar Azam made negligible contributions before being picked off by Bhuveneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav and Shoaib Malik was brilliantly run out by Ravindra Jadeja after a promising start.

Azhar had already top-edged Jadeja to deep midwicket by then and all sense of jeopardy had gone.

India had almost tuned out themselves, Kedhar Jadhav inexplicably putting down a dolly at cover, but Pakistan’s race to the bottom continued.

The lower order came and went with a sense of urgency, looking every inch a side unwilling to battle on any longer. Yadav was on hand to assist, dismissing Amir and Hasan to finish with three for 30.

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