“It was every bit the drama we hoped it would be – a human drama; a sporting drama; a drama of wills and of temperaments.”
In one sentence, Mark Nicholas, TV pundit and former captain of the English county team Hampshire, provided a synopsis of every India vs Pakistan cricket match ever played. A titanic clash that never disappoints (unless you’re a Pakistani fan), the latest battle – held at Adelaide, Australia on February 15 – was the sixth between the two countries in a World Cup. Pakistan had lost all five previous games. Could they do it this time?
The latest contest featured many significant moments – be it with the bat or the ball in hand – and India, it seemed, could do almost no wrong.
Spearheaded by the shrewd, sage-like M. S. Dhoni, India got decision after decision right, and thrashed their eternal rivals with a wonderful all-round display.
The start of the match itself was ominous for the Pakistanis, perhaps offering a glimpse of what was to come. Dhoni won the toss – an uncommon sight for Indian fans, as the Delhi-born World Cup winner has lost a shocking 72 per cent of his Test match tosses. He has done better in one-dayers, having lost 52 per cent of his tosses. Even so, he shares the record for the most number of straight toss losses – nine – with Indian batting legend Sunil Gavaskar.
The Indian captain elected to bat – it was a good decision; even Dhoni’s Pakistani counterpart, Misbah-ul-Haq, said he would have done the same.
India’s start was sluggish at best. Rohit Sharma, the only batsman with two ODI double-hundreds, fell after scoring just 15 runs. He tried to pull a Sohail Khan delivery, but spooned a catch to Misbah running in from mid-off. Having made 150 in a warm-up match against Afghanistan a few days earlier, the Mumbai Indians skipper showed that he has some way to go before he could shed his tag as a hot-and-cold performer.
Rohit’s opening partner Shikhar Dhawan was joined at the crease by Virat Kohli – the man foreigners love to hate. Idolised by Indian fans, but much-maligned outside the subcontinent, India’s vice-captain continued his “love affair” with the Adelaide Oval by notching a composed century – his fourth in five innings at the ground, and his 22nd overall in one-dayers. His fondness for the arena was revealed in his post-match interview. “I want to wrap up this ground and take it home,” Kohli said.
India were also boosted by half-centuries from Dhawan and Suresh Raina, and were in a great position going to the 45th over. But five wickets fell in the last five overs, with Kohli the first to go after making a magnificent 107. He was followed by the Chennai Super Kings triumvirate, Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni. Ajinkya Rahane was the last wicket to fall for India in the 49th over, but Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohammad Shami guided India over the 300-run mark, providing a huge psychological boost for the team and the anxious fans. Sohail was the best of the Pakistani bowlers, with figures of 5 for 55.
Chasing a big total, Pakistan started off badly, losing opener Younus Khan in the third over for six runs. Ahmed Shehzad and number three Haris Sohail put on 68 runs, before Sohail was dismissed for a scratchy 36. Shehzad was then joined by Misbah, who would go on to play a masterful innings. When Shehzad was caught by Jadeja in the 23rd over, India were on top, and they rammed home their advantage by grabbing two more wickets for just one run. Sohaib Maqsood was caught by Raina at slip, and in the next over, Umar Akmal was dismissed, both for ducks. As big-hitting all-rounder Shahid Afridi strolled in, he was booed by the Indian crowd. He looked in the mood, staring Jadeja down as he got ready to bat. But 10 overs later, he too was gone, well-caught by Kohli who spread his arms wide after taking the catch – a carbon copy of the trademark Afridi celebration.
Misbah played the role of the lone warrior, caressing bad balls to the boundary, and keeping the scoreboard ticking over. But he was left to do too much, and the last wicket fell to deafening roars from the Indian fans, who made up about 75 per cent of the crowd. They had been rewarded with a 76-run victory against their arch rivals in a game they would remember for a long time.
A sea of blue shirts was singing and dancing as many disappointed Pakistani fans began trudging out of the stadium well before the match was over – an apt summary of a one-sided contest.
It was a day that India roared with all their might.
In the interests of full disclosure, Anirudh is a fan of India.
Anirudh, a student from South Island School, won the Best Cover/Feature Award at the 2014 Young Post Junior Reporter Awards