Centuries by Virat Kohli and KL Rahul along with Kuldeep Yadav’s five-wicket haul led India to a resounding 228-run victory over archrivals Pakistan in their Asia Cup Super Four match at the R Premadasa Stadium.
Play on the reserve day commenced a little late following yet another rain delay, before India reached a mammoth total of 356/2, their highest score against Pakistan in ODIs.
The spotlight shone on Rahul, who made a stunning return to international cricket with an elegant 111 not out off 106 balls. Kohli, on the other hand, displayed astute running between the wickets and dazzling strokeplay, notching up his fourth ODI century at this venue with an unbeaten 122 off just 94 balls.
The previous day, Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma dismantled the Pakistan bowling attack with quickfire fifties in a 121-run opening partnership. However, on the reserve day, Rahul and Kohli shared a 233-run stand for the third wicket – the highest partnership by an Indian pair in the Asia Cup.
In response, Pakistan struggled in the chase, with only three of their batsmen managing to surpass 20 runs. India’s fast bowlers maintained impeccable line and length, showcasing exceptional seam and swing bowling skills.
Kuldeep then bamboozled the Pakistani batsmen by turning the ball both ways, picking up 5-25, his second five-wicket haul in ODIs. Pakistan were restricted to just 128 runs, marking India’s highest margin of victory against Pakistan in terms of runs (228 runs), with the Men in Blue now leading the table.
Jasprit Bumrah, appearing in an ODI for the first time since July 2022, expertly exploited seam and swing movement, especially against the left-handed batters Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman. Bumrah maintained precise lengths and dismissed Imam by changing his angle to around the wicket, inducing an edge to second slip.
Captain Babar Azam took 11 balls to get off the mark but was dismissed for 10 by Hardik Pandya, who delivered a big nip-backer to hit the top of the stumps through the gate before rain halted play. Later, Shardul Thakur struck in the first over after the rain break, with Mohammad Rizwan edging a length delivery to Rahul.
Pakistan’s woes continued as Fakhar Zaman’s stumps were left in disarray while attempting a slog-sweep off Kuldeep. Agha Salman, despite top-edging a sweep off Ravindra Jadeja that caused a cut under his right eye, looked somewhat comfortable at the crease but was trapped lbw while trying to sweep Kuldeep.
The left-arm wrist-spinner also got Shadab Khan to hole out to long-on and took a sharp return catch off his own bowling to dismiss Iftikhar Ahmed for 23. With Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah unable to bat due to injuries, Kuldeep completed the match by claiming his five-wicket haul, dismissing Faheem Ashraf with a googly.
Earlier, with Rauf unable to bowl due to discomfort in his right flank, Pakistan suffered as the Rahul-Kohli partnership put the bowlers under pressure. India’s top four batters also contributed significantly, with each scoring at least 50 runs.
After the rain delay, Kohli and Rahul kick-started the boundary spree. Rahul played a slog-sweep for six off the part-time off-spin of Iftikhar, followed by a cut for four. He lofted Ahmed for four, while Kohli steered him for another boundary.
Rahul, after reaching his fifty, continued to put pressure on Shadab by sweeping him for four and executing a remarkable shot – dancing down the pitch to loft the ball over wide long-on for six.
Kohli reached his half-century in 55 balls and toyed with a weakened Pakistan bowling lineup, hitting boundaries with ease and collecting ones and twos comfortably. In the last seven overs or so, The Indian maestro shifted gears, effortlessly flicking Ahmed for six and pulling through mid-wicket for four.
Rahul, a late addition to the playing eleven due to Shreyas Iyer’s back spasms, cut and smacked Ashraf for two fours before taking a brace off Naseem to complete his stunning sixth ODI century.
In the next over, Kohli became the fastest batter to reach 13,000 ODI runs and secured his 47th ODI century, achieving the milestone on his 84th delivery. Rahul also added two more boundaries off Shaheen. Pakistan’s fortunes further deteriorated as Naseem left the field due to injury, and Ahmed bowled the remaining deliveries, conceding a boundary to Kohli.
Kohli attempted a ramp shot off Faheem in the final over, narrowly missing the third man, and followed it up with a boundary over cover off the free hit. He concluded the innings by dancing down the pitch and smashing a lofted shot down the ground for a massive six, leaving the crowd ecstatic with the grandstand finish.