Rohit-Dhawan steer India to final
Pakistan 237/7 (50)
Shoaib Malik 78
Sarfraz Ahmed 44
Jasprit Bumrah 2/29
Kuldeep Yadav 2/41
India 238/1 (39.3)
Shikhar Dhawan 114
Rohit Sharma 111*
Riding on tons from Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma, India cruised to a comfortable 9-wicket victory over Pakistan in Dubai on Sunday. With Afghanistan losing their second Super 4 encounter to Bangladesh, India have confirmed their berth in the final of the Asia Cup.
Sarfraz Ahmed didn’t bother about India’s chasing form and opted to bat first with Mohammad Amir and Shadab Khan returning to the side in place of Haris Sohail and Usman Khan. Skipper Rohit Sharma made no changes to his winning XI.
The Pakistani openers came out with a certain plan – to see off Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. With minimal risk, Zaman and Imam added 24 runs for the first wicket before Imam Ul-Haq perished in the 8th over to Yuzvendra Chahal thanks to a smart review from Rohit Sharma with the consent of MS Dhoni from behind the stumps.
Fakhar Zaman from the other end found his mojo back and had started to score quick runs when he slipped while attempting a sweep and was adjudged lbw to Kuldeep Yadav. Replays suggested a possible glove but Zaman didn’t bother to use the review.
Sarfraz Ahmed promoted himself to number four with a certain mission to anchor the innings. But Pakistan found themselves again under pressure when a misunderstanding between Sarfraz and Babar Azam put an end to the latter’s innings.
Pakistan needed experience and solidarity in the middle overs to recover. So Shoaib Malik, against his favourite opposition provided that with Sarfraz playing second fiddle. The duo decided to keep the strike rotating and respected the good balls but were ruthless towards the ones that were loose.
Malik ensured that the boundaries kept coming with his calculative hitting while Sarfraz was a tad too slow, struggling to time the ball cleanly.
The duo batted for 138 balls to add 107-crucial runs with Shoaib Malik getting past his fifty run mark. Sarfraz was desperately trying to get a move on when he hit an overpitched ball from Kuldeep Yadav to Rohit Sharma at covers.
Shoaib Malik found support in Asif Ali who found his hitting range in no time. He hit Bhuvneshwar Kumar for a couple of sixes with momentum on Pakistan’s side when Jasprit Bumrah, in his second spell, removed Shoaib Malik to dent their hopes of scoring in excess of 250.
Bumrah kept the pressure from one end with Chahal removing Asif Ali. Once Asif departed, Pakistan had a tough task to score runs off Bumrah. The death overs specialist lived up to his reputation and allowed India to restric Pakistan to 237/7 from their stipulated 50 overs.
India had a dream start to their chase with Dhawan stamping his authority in every stroke. The dashing left-hander played the aggressor’s role with Rohit being watchful.
Rohit got a very early life when he was foxed by Shaheen Afridi’s slower one only to be dropped by Imam Ul-Haq. The Indian openers added 50 for the first wicket inside 10 overs and looked in no discomfort from there on. Dhawan was quick to punish the bad deliveries while Rohit was happy to keep the singles coming.
Rohit and Dhawan added 100 runs in the 20th over with Dhawan moving past his fifty run mark. Pakistan deployed Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan but both their spinners couldn’t pose any threat to the Indian openers.
Rohit, every now and then, kept hitting the short ball to the square leg fence with pulls off his front foot. He shifted gears as soon as he completed his half-century with India breezing past 150 in no time.
Rohit got another life in 28th over but by then, Pakistan were already far behind in the contest. Shikhar Dhawan swung his bat at everything as runs kept coming. He moved into his 90s and swiftly got to a ton as India inched towards the Pakistani total.
Dhawan exploded after his ton but fell victim to a run out on 114. Birthday boy Rayudu then joined his skipper who first got to the 7000 ODI run mark and notched his 19th ton in the format to steer India home.
India won the contest with 11.3 overs to spare and 9 wickets in hand.
The men in blue will battle Afghanistan in their final Super 4 fixture on September 25.