On Sunday, the gloomy skies of Edgbaston in Birmingham showed mercy and allowed the potential ‘Match of Champions Trophy 2017’ to have a result. Given that heavy showers were predicted through the day, it’s a miracle that the India vs Pakistan ODI wasn’t truncated any more than it was. Eventually, though, this wasn’t even close to being the Match of the Tournament. It was heavily one-sided, flawed, full of mistakes and difficult to watch for cricket enthusiasts who’ve grown up watching some classics between these two nations.
India annihilated a tame Pakistani team by 124 runs on the D/L method, taking their record to 13-2 in ICC tournaments against their archrivals.
Both teams – not just Pakistan – struggled in the outfield. It wasn’t only the rain or the intermittent breaks, the fielders were getting the basics wrong. There were at least five dropped catches, most of them regulation chances. But it was the fielding that was worse. Ahmed Shehzad let Shikhar Dhawan off the mark at point by jumping over the ball instead of using his hands. Kedar Jadhav took it forward for India by dropping a sitter and misfielding twice at the boundary. It was ugly to watch for fans – with both Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli profiting of dropped chances. India’s misses weren’t that costly because of the lack of intent in Pakistan’s batting, but it will hurt them against a team like South Africa or even England later on. This was a mess of a game as far as this particular aspect went.
Many of us can’t name more than three players off our tongue in this new limited-overs side. There is no Misbah, Younis Khan or any of the Akmal brothers. Azhar Ali, the opener, is a test specialist. Only Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez are experienced along with Wahab Riaz – all of who failed in this crucial game against India. Malik looked good until he was run out by Ravindra Jadeja, but the others just struggled to get any of the Indian bowlers away. Pakistan’s much vaunted bowling fell short in the final eight overs, too. Wahab leaked 85 runs with some horribly wayward bowling, and limped off the field eventually along with Mohammed Amir – who suffered an injury too. The team didn’t play Junaid Khan – a bowler that had troubled Kohli on previous occasions.
The Opening Salvo
India’s opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan took over from the 2013 Champions Trophy. They put on a century stand and laid the foundation for India to launch in the final overs. This was their third century opening partnership in seven matches in the tournament. Rohit looks to have shaken off his pre-tournament rust with a calm innings, while Dhawan has looked more confident in English conditions. Dhawan wouldn’t have played if not for KL Rahul’s injury, and he looks to be making the most of this good fortune. His footwork and swagger is back too. They depend on some middle-over hitting by one of them, though Rohit was run out before he could tear into the Pakistan bowling attack.
Best Bowling Team
Not Pakistan, but India. You heard that right! By dropping Mohammad Shami and Ravichandran Ashwin, India played their most suitable limited-overs attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Jasprit Bumrah formed the core of what is fast becoming the most reliable bowling attack in world cricket. In these conditions, most of them are potent with both new and old ball, and Umesh Yadav is arguably in the best form of his life. He is one of the better bowlers going around today. It also helps that Jadeja has carried on his test form into these grounds; he was man of the match in the last Champions Trophy final.
Middle Over Blast
The worrying part – on paper at least – was India’s lack of firepower in the middle order to be able to capitalize on the slog overs. A weak Pakistan attack, however, showed that old guns like Yuvraj can still do their thing on the day. The addition of Hardik Pandya is very important, because he makes up for Dhoni’s lack of big-hitting ability these days. Yuvraj allowed a struggling Kohli to hit form in one innings. Their ability to accelerate in the end will matter the most when it comes to the business end of the tournament. Pandya, Yuvraj and Kedar Jadhav will have to come in and swing, depending on the situation. It’s clear that Rohit is the anchor, and Kohli will rotate the strike.