India screamed to a convincing eight-wicket victory over Pakistan in Wednesday’s key Asia Cup clash at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s decision to bat first after proving triumphant at the toss backfired early, as Pakistan slipped to a precarious three for two inside five overs.
While openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq fell cheaply, middle-order men Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik managed a steadying 47 and 43, respectively. Neither, however, were able to convert the promising starts into innings of genuine substance.
A slew of wickets followed and, one delivery into the 44th over, Pakistan were limited to a mere 162 all out. Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar clinched three key wickets. Spinner Kedar Jadhav, meanwhile, relished ODI career-best figures of three for 23. His previous best of three for 29 came against New Zealand in Mohali two years ago.
The Indians’ pursuit of an admittedly modest target was swift and clinical. Captain Rohit Sharma, standing in for the rested Virat Kohli, weighed in with a commanding 52. Fellow opener Shikhar Dhawan gathered a complementary 46 during an entertaining opening alliance of 86 inside 14 overs.
Pakistan’s seam trio of Mohammad Amir, Usman Khan and Hasan Ali were ineffective in challenging conditions. It was only the third time in 20 ODIs the otherwise prolific Ali went without a breakthrough.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan and seamer Faheem Ashraf snared a consolation wicket each, but the unbeaten Dinesh Karthik and Ambati Rayudu were entirely comfortable in ensuring India’s victory with all of 126 deliveries to spare.
The result was a semblance of amends for India, who lost to Pakistan in last year’s Champions Trophy final. Wednesday’s outcome, too, pushed India to the top of Group A, leaving Pakistan in second position and Hong Kong third.
Afghanistan will battle Bangladesh for the lead in Group B, come Thursday’s meeting at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Sri Lanka, meanwhile, have been ruled out of contention for a semi-final berth after consecutive defeats to the Bangladeshis and Afghans.
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