A brutal exhibition of ball-striking from Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh followed by a ruthless display with the ball saw India begin their Champions Trophy defence with a crushing victory against their arch‑rivals Pakistan at Edgbaston.
But while the result – a 124-run win by Duckworth-Lewis – may have met pre-match expectations in terms of the gulf between the two sides, the atmosphere at least exceeded them, as a record crowd of 24,165 throbbed throughout a day that required patience given its regular stoppages for rain.
A match strewn with errors, perhaps because of the magnitude of the occasion given a global TV audience tipped to approach one billion, ended with the brollies packed away and the ground bathed in glorious sunshine, as Pakistan were bowled out for 164 in 33.4 overs with the No11, Wahab Riaz, failing to emerge due to injury. Umesh Yadav led the India bowlers with three for 30.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s side had been chasing a rain-adjusted target of 289 from 41 overs but always looked up against it after India had stuck 319 for three on the board in 48. It was a total that was heavily bloated by the power-hitting at the end during which Kohli’s hit an unbeaten 81 from 68 balls, Yuvraj creamed 53 from 32 and Hardik Pandya launched three late sixes in his six‑ball 20 not out.
A hostile opening burst from Mohammad Amir notwithstanding, the decision to stick India in at the toss by Sarfraz resulted in an ominous start, as the openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma eased to 125 by the 25th over. The pair laid the platform for their side’s late assault while bringing up their ninth century opening stand together in ODIs and a record third in Champions Trophy cricket.
Despite Pakistan’s head coach, Mickey Arthur, talking up their preparation leading into the match, his side were shabbier in the field than some of the items for sale in the nearby Moseley vintage fair and though the two rain breaks that wiped out an hour and 15 minutes of play gave them a couple of chances to regroup, they instead got progressively worse. By the end, when Kohli and Yuvraj were clubbing boundaries for fun, the wheels were off completely.
Sharma’s 91 from 119 balls was an old-style affair from the owner of the world record one-day international score of 264. Monopolising much of the strike first thing, he was duly first to his fifty off 71 balls when launching the 18‑year‑old Shadab Khan over midwicket for six. The much‑denied Dhawan then briefly crackled in bringing up his own milestone before on 68 the leg-spinner’s friend – aka a rank full toss – was plopped into the hands of Azhar Ali in the deep.
While Kohli’s arrival to a wall of noise that doubtless left Edgbaston locals wondering why their glassware had begun to shake brought with it a relatively sedate passage of play. A stand of 56 with Sharma, interrupted by the second downpour, came from 12.1 overs with the set opener at one stage going 44 balls between boundaries. Sharma’s eventual demise came to the surprise of many, as a seemingly innocuous run-out attempt from point saw his bat over the line but pushed up by the dive such that the third umpire, Richard Kettleborough, judged it not to be grounded.
With 10 overs of the adjusted 48 to go and Yuvraj new to the crease, the score was 202 for two and Pakistan were still in the match provided they could apply the squeeze. But instead two regulation drops handed lives to both batsmen and, with Amir and Wahab succumbing to injury, 117 runs were brutalised, including an astonishing 72 from the last 24 deliveries.
Yuvraj was first to profit in the 39th over when, with eight to his name, he duffed a googly from Shadab Khan to Hasan Ali at long‑on only to see the ball grassed on the slide. From there the left-hander went into overdrive, creaming a 29-ball half-century, with short-arm bunts down the ground for four and one heaved six before eventually being trapped lbw by a Hasan yorker with 10 balls remaining.
Kohli, who was dropped on 43 in the deep by substitute Faheem Ashraf, was not to be outdone and having hit just four in his first 55 balls, joined the violent dismantling of Pakistan’s attack. Wahab was particularly to his taste, with the left-armer carved for two fours and one screaming six before hobbling off with his foot apparently crocked and his figures – 8.4 overs, none for 87 – in tatters.
It meant Imad Wasim, the left-arm spinner who had bafflingly been given six overs with the new ball, had to see things out. It could not have started worse as the new man, Hardik Pandya, slapped him for three successive sixes before Kohli capped off the innings with a sixth four laced through extra cover that summed up the dominance.
Pakistan’s reply, on that saw an original adjusted target of 324 cut following a 35-minute rain break early on, hinged on Azhar Ali converting his 64-ball half‑century into an innings of substance and given support at the other end.
Neither materialised, with Ahmed Shazhad trapped lbw for 12 by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Babar Azam slashing Yadav to point on eight before Azhar himself swept Ravindra Jadeja to deep square leg the ball after reaching his 50.
After Shoaib Malik was brilliantly run out by Jadeja and Mohammad Hafeez clubbed the left-armer up in the air on 33, the lower order simply disintegrated.