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The fixture seemed to have reversed for India in the group stage games. The game which was supposed to be a banana peel against Hong Kong turned out to be a tough outing for the Men in Blue and the one against Pakistan, which was touted to be the mother of all clashes ended up being a one-sided affair. After India's performance against Hong Kong, especially their struggles with the ball signalled that the Pakistani side would be a tough nut to crack. But India and sorted all their issues in a matter of 24 hours and the world number 2 side turned up in the match showing why they're considered the best limited-over format side in the world currently.
It was the same ground where India played Hong Kong just a day earlier and Rohit Sharma once again lost the toss and was asked to take the field first in the torrid heat. India had made two changes to their side with Khaleel Ahmed and Shardul Thakur missing out making way for Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. Seeing Bhuvneshwar Kumar's recent performance and the way he performed in the previous match, many pundits believed Khaleel Ahmed should be given the nod ahead of him as the youngster impressed everyone in his very first outing. Bhuvneshvar put all those speculations to end with a cracking opening spell supported ably by his partner in crime, Jasprit Bumrah.
There was no swing on offer and very less assistance for the bowlers but both Bhuvneshvar and Bumrah bowled tight and disciplined lines making sure the Pakistani openers didn't get underway. They kept hitting the back of the length line and bowled close to the stumps making sure there was absolutely no width on offer. The openers showed their lack of experience as the runs weren't coming and were dismissed while playing needless shots in order to up the ante. Both of them fell to Bhuvneshvar Kumar and they were two down within 5 overs. Babar Azam and Shoaib Mallik solidified the innings with an 82-run stand until a peach from Kuldeep Yadav bamboozled Babar and the vulnerable middle-order of Pakistan was exposed. All this while. Indian bowlers didn't allow Pakistan to get away with the scoring rate and made Pakistan work hard for every run.
Hardik Pandya endured an injury and had to be stretchered out in the 18th over. The injury seemed to be a blessing in disguise as now it was the duty of the man with the 'golden arm', Kedar Jadhav to finish Hardik's quota of overs. Jadhav bowled smart lines with his slinging action and varied his pace much to Pakistan's frustration. His first victim was Pakistan's captain, Sarfaraz who tried to deposit him in the stands but was caught at the ropes, courtesy of Manish Pandey's brilliant athleticism. The wicket opened the door and soon the Pakistani side crumbled like a house of cards. Yuzvendra Chahal went wicketless but bowled well to support the other bowlers around him. Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar returned to finish things off and made sure Pakistan didn't get to play their full quota of overs as Pakistan were bundled for 162 in 43.1 overs.
Everyone backed India to win this one when they came out to chase but the Pakistani pace trio of Amir, Ali, and Usman were expected to make things tough for the Indians. Rohit Sharma, India's makeshift captain for the series has had his issues against left-arm pacers and it was always going to be a contest between Amir and him, where the former has always gotten better of him. The openers started off cautiously until Rohit Sharma unleashed, and punished a couple of bad balls bowled to him. It was just that was needed to get him in the groove, and Shikhar Dhawan, on the other end seemed to have carried his good form from the previous match. The openers put up an 86-run stand with Rohit Sharma reaching his 50 in just 36 balls, his fastest ever in the ODIs. Rohit fell just after his 50 and Dhawan soon followed his skipper. But the openers had done enough to make sure India didn't have to break a sweat in the run chase and Rayudu and Karthik put up a 60-run stand for the third wicket to see India through in this run chase and hand their team an emphatic 8-wicket victory.
It was not the ideal India-Pakistan encounter, with no twists and drama but India wouldn't mind that as they went on to stamp their authority proving why they're considered as favourites to lift the trophy. India will face Pakistan once again in the Super Four stage on Sunday and if everything goes as expected, we might see the two teams again in the finals. But Pakistan is not going to digest this defeat that easily and are sure to make a strong comeback in the remainder of the series and we can hope for a better encounter in the coming matches.