Partha Bhaduri| TNN | Jun 5, 2017, 08.19 AM IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Much-hyped tie becomes one-way street as men in blue make statement with 124-run win
  2. Set a revised target of 289 in 41 overs, Pakistan ended at 164/9
  3. Yuvraj Singh was man of the match for his 53 off 32 balls, the fastest 50 by an Indian in Champions Trophy
BIRMINGHAM: As luck would have it, the rain stayed away when Pakistan needed it the most.

Having infuriated with short bursts of showers throughout the day, the skies magically cleared up when Pakistan’s revised target of 289 in 41overs was agreed upon, revealing a gulf in standards too vast for Pakistan to bridge, even on such a momentous occasion.

Their batting collapse, when it did happen, seemed inevitable.

Bhuvneshwar provided India with the first breakthrough, trapping Ahmed Shahzad leg-before. Yadav got rid of the dangerous Babar Azam. Azhar Ali survived a dropped catch and two run out chances but couldn’t capitalize. In the end stages, Kedar Jadhav even dropped a sitter but by then it had ceased to matter.

India’s comfortable 124-run victory (DL Method) meant the hugely anticipated contest was quite the rain-marred, one-sided affair for the 24,156 who made this the highest attended ODI in Edgbaston ever. Even with the bowling supposedly being Pakistan’s strong suit, their decline as a cricketing powerhouse in recent times has meant they often struggle to live up to the billing. Eventually, on Sunday they chose the biggest stage to showcase the worst of their familiar failings.

Muddled tactics? Check. Bowlers crumbling under pressure? Double check. Fielding nightmares? Triple check. Fast-bowler breakdowns? Don’t even go there.

India, meanwhile, ticked all the right boxes, making the loudest possible proclamations of their batting might and sending out strong warning they won’t yield their Champions Trophy crown without a fight. Not even the rain, which completely usurped the occasion, could douse India’s batting fire.

Their openers clicked, allowing the captain the luxury of maintaining his poise through a relatively sedate period before his impeccable timing returned. The top four all scored half centuries, only the 14th such occasion in ODI history. Then the power hitters flexed their might and left Pakistan’s bowlers in disarray.

Rohit Sharma (91 off 119 balls; 7×4, 2×6), playing his first ODI since October 2016, quickly managed to shed the rust after appearing a bit tentative early on, and Shikhar Dhawan settled India’s opening fears. With rain imminent and Duckworth-Lewis calculations a possibility, India focused on saving wickets for a late surge. The plan was executed to perfection.

To top it all off, India gave ample hint they have decided on a new finisher to supersede MS Dhoni.

One particular dropped catch should haunt Pakistan more than the others as India were allowed to finish at 3193 in the allotted 48 overs before rain struck again, and again with Pakistan at 220, before the eventual revised target. Yuvraj Singh, sent in at No. 4, was yet to unleash his armoury of flawlessly-timed projectiles when he lobbed up a wrong one from the young leggie Shadab Khan, only to see Hasan Ali making a hash of it running in from long off.

It was the sort of comical drop which has come to define Pakistan’s fielding in recent times, and Yuvraj quickly realized this could be his day, unleashing mayhem in the end stages of India’s innings.

The partnership with Kohli was 13 when Yuvraj, then on only eight, was dropped. The stand eventually lasted 93 runs. Yuvraj bagged himself a nice fifty, off only 29 balls, the fifth-fastest half-century in the Champions Trophy. He took a fancy to Hasan Ali’s nearly-yorkers and honest slower ones as the bowler crumbled under pressure.

With the run rate soaring, Pakistan responded by dropping Kohli, the culprit this time being Fakhar Zaman, substituting for Mohammad Amir, who had succumbed to cramps moments earlier. Yuvraj and Kohli added 83 runs between them in 38 balls, after being dropped.

Significantly, Hardik Pandya walked in ahead of MS Dhoni and Kedar Jadhav, and clobbered three successive sixes as Imad Wasim found himself stuck with last-over duties. India scored 72 off the last four overs.

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