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Asia Cup: Kohli and Rahul tons, Kuldeep’s 5-25 sets up India’s massive 228-run win over Pakistan

Colombo, Sep 11 (IANS) Fantastic centuries by Virat Kohli and K.L. Rahul, followed by a terrific five-wicket haul by Kuldeep Yadav helped India thrash archrivals Pakistan by a massive 228 runs in a one-sided Super Four match of the Asia Cup at the R Premadasa Stadium here on Monday.

With play on the reserve day starting at 4:40 pm after a rain delay, India reached a mammoth 356/2, their highest score against Pakistan in ODIs.

It was down to Rahul making a stunning comeback to international cricket with a classy 111 not out off 106 balls while Kohli combined astute running between the wickets with dazzling strokeplay to hit his fourth ODI century in as many innings at the venue through an unbeaten 122 off just 94 balls.

If Sunday saw Shubman Gill and Rohit Sharma pulverize the Pakistan bowling attack with quickfire fifties in a 121-run opening stand, then Monday belonged to Rahul and Kohli sharing a huge 233-run stand for the third wicket, also the highest partnership by any Indian pair in the Asia Cup.

In reply, Pakistan were nowhere in the chase as only three of their batters managed to go past 20. India’s fast bowlers were impeccable in their line and length while putting out a surreal exhibition of seam and swing bowling.

Kuldeep then came to bamboozle the batters by turning the ball both ways to pick 5-25, his second fifer in ODIs, as Pakistan were restricted to just 128, with 228 runs being the highest margin of win for India against Pakistan in terms of runs, with Rohit Sharma & Co now on top of the table.

Jasprit Bumrah, bowling in an ODI for the first time since July 2022, got the ball to seam and swing away from the left-handed batters Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman.

Bumrah had impeccable control on his lengths to keep the batters in check. He took out Imam by changing his angle to around the wicket and pitched the ball a little fuller to get the left-handed batter nick to second slip.

Captain Babar Azam took 11 balls to get off the mark and hit a brace of fours. But his stay ended on 10 via Hardik Pandya, who got a big nip-backer on length to hit the top of the stumps through the gate before rain arrived to stop the proceedings.

An hour and 10 minutes later, Shardul Thakur struck in the first over after resumption as Mohammad Rizwan edged a length delivery behind to Rahul.

Pakistan’s free fall continued as Fakhar Zaman’s stumps were left in a mess while trying to slog-sweep off Kuldeep. Agha Salman looked a little comfortable at the crease, despite top-edging a sweep off Ravindra Jadeja to his face, causing a big cut under the right eye, but was trapped lbw while trying to sweep off Kuldeep.

The left-arm wrist-spinner got Shadab Khan to hole out to long-on and took a sharp return catch off his bowling to send back Iftikhar Ahmed for 23. With Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah unable to bat due to their niggles, Kuldeep finished off the match by clinching his five-wicket haul by castling Faheem Ashraf with a googly.

Earlier, with Rauf absent from bowling due to a little discomfort in his right flank, it hurt Pakistan big time as the Rahul-Kohli combination put the bowlers firmly under the pump, with sloppy fielding not helping their cause. It was also the fourth time in ODIs that India’s top four batters made at least 50+ runs.

Post resumption, Kohli and Rahul started the boundary flow by taking a four each off Naseem and Shaheen Shah Afridi respectively. In between, Pakistan lost its last review over a catch of Kohli which replays showed took a thigh edge, as the partnership between him and Rahul crossed the 50-run mark.

As soon as the part-time off-spin of Iftikhar came in, Rahul’s eyes lit up – a slog-sweep went for a six, followed by a cut going for four. He would loft off Ahmed for four, followed by Kohli steering him for the second boundary of the over.

After reaching his fifty, Rahul put Shadab straightaway under pressure, sweeping him for four and playing the shot of the match -– dancing down the pitch to slam a wristy loft over wide long-on for six.

Kohli was in his usual flow, reaching his half-century in 55 balls and making the most out of a weakened Pakistan bowling line-up, mixing hitting boundaries with ease and taking ones and twos with relative ease.

He would signal a shift in gears by taking Ahmed to cleaners in the 43rd over -– effortlessly flicking him for six and rocking back to pull through mid-wicket for four.

Rahul, a last-minute addition to the playing eleven due to Shreyas Iyer’s back spasms, cut and smacked Ashraf for two fours before taking a brace off Naseem to complete his stunning sixth ODI century.

In the next over, Kohli became the fastest batter to reach 13,000 ODI runs and achieve his 47th ODI century, reaching the mark on his 84th delivery, with Rahul taking two more boundaries off Shaheen.

Pakistan’s day went from bad to worse as Naseem went off the field, holding his hand after bowling the second ball of the 49th over. Ahmed bowled the rest of the deliveries and was hit for a four by Kohli.

Kohli lined up to play a ramp shot off Faheem in the final over but just sliced past the third man at the last minute. He then slashed him over cover for another boundary off the free hit, before dancing down the pitch and smacking a straight bat loft down the ground for a massive six, as the crowd went ecstatic on seeing the grandstand finish.

Brief scores:

India 356/2 in 50 overs (Virat Kohli 122 not out, K.L Rahul 111 not out, Rohit Sharma 56, Shubman Gill 58;  Shadab Khan 1-71, Shaheen Shah Afridi 1-79) beat Pakistan 128 all out in 32 overs (Fakhar Zaman 27; Kuldeep Yadav 5-25, Shardul Thakur 1-16) by 228 runs

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