Unlike the many previous battles between the two sides, this was not built up as a must-watch encounter. And, it did not turn out to be one. Of course, there wasn’t much to play for in the game since India had made it to the semi-finals and Pakistan had already crashed out. But, the Birmingham clash still turned out to be much more one-sided than expected. Pakistan’s batting failed to touch 200 for the third game in a row, as India’s bowlers made merry before the batsmen finished off the job for the team.
In a rain-curtailed match, MS Dhoni won the toss and, not surprisingly, asked Pakistan to bat first. India’s bowlers dominated as the game was reduced to a 40-overs-a-side contest due to persistent rain. Pakistan dropped Imran Farhat for the match, and opened with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal. But, it did not do much to change their poor returns with the bat. Bhuvneshwar Kumar utilised the conditions to his advantage, and gave India the early breakthroughs with the ball. The medium pacer dismissed the in-form Nasir Jamshed for 2 and then broke a threatening partnership between Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez, sending back the latter, brilliantly caught by Dhoni for 27.
With Hafeez gone, Akmal needed to kick on, but he also fell for 21, caught by Virat Kohli off R. Ashwin’s bowling. At 56 for 3, it was up to skipper Misbah-ul-Haq again to do damage control. The captain and Asaq Shafiq featured in a steadying 54-run stand, but just when Pakistan were looking in somewhat control of the situation Ravindra Jadeja put them on the back foot, clean bowling Misbah for 22. Shafiq went on to top score for his side with 41, but when Ishant Sharma took him out, Pakistan had lost half their side for 131.
The rest of the innings was the story of Pakistan’s traditional lower-order batting collapse. Shoaib Malik had another failure. He was trapped lbw by Jadeja for 17. Umar Amin played an impressive cameo, remaining unbeaten on 27 off 26 balls, but he found no support from the rest. Wahab Riaz was bowled for a duck by Ashwin, Saeed Ajmal was dismissed for 5 by Sharma while the last two men – Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan -- were run out without scoring. Pakistan collapsed from 50 for 1 to 165 all-out in 39.4 overs.
With rain playing spoilsport in the Indian innings too, Dhoni’s men were left to get 102 in 22 overs. India never looked in any trouble at all during their chase. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan added 58 for the opening wicket. After Sharma was dismissed by Ajmal for 18, Dhawan continued to prosper. The fluent left-hander made 48 from 41 balls with the aid of five boundaries. Just when he looked set for another half-century, he was caught in the deep. There were no worries for India though as Virat Kohli (22) and Dinesh Karthik (11) saw the team home.
--By A Cricket Analyst