With World Test Championship points on the line, the Ajit Agarkar-led senior selection committee picked a full-strength squad for the longest format.
Rain played spoilsport as the highly anticipated Asia Cup 2023 Super Four encounter between India and Pakistan at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo was called off on Sunday. The match will now resume on Monday since the Asian Cricket Council has allocated a Reserve Day for the marquee clash.
Earlier, India opener Shubman Gill utilized the five-day break at the ongoing Asia Cup 2023 sharpening his skills against left-arm pace, and worked closely with Nuwan Seneviratne, India’s left-arm throw down specialist, in anticipation of the face-off with a top quality Pakistan bowling attack.
Put in to bat by Pakistan captain Babar Azam under clear skies, Gill had the conditions in his favour and started off with four boundaries off Shaheen Shah Afridi to pass the first test (his weakness against quality left-arm pace) with flying colours. He repeated the show with three more boundaries against the left-arm quick in the next over to give India a flying start.
In fact, in the pre-match presser, Gill had said that not facing Pakistani bowlers enough makes a bit of difference at big events. “We don’t play against Pakistan as often as we do against some other teams. We all know that their bowling attack is quite good and when you don’t play against such attacks often it makes a bit of difference in main tournaments.”
Having already done his homework against the hard lengths, the young Punjab right-hander was in no mood to let the other quicks dominate, and slammed Naseem Shah for a couple of boundaries before hitting Faheem Ashraf for another to help India reach 50 in mere six overs.
India skipper Rohit Sharma, who reached 24 off 10 balls by then, was happy to be a spectator at the other end with Gill taking charge and getting to a well-deserved fifty off 37 deliveries but changed gears once leg-spinner Shadab Khan was introduced into the attack. The Mumbai batter took Shadab to the cleaners on consecutive occasions to raise the tempo from the other end as India inched closer to the three-figure mark.
The carnage started on the fourth delivery of the 13th over when Rohit rocked back and pulled a short-pitched delivery over midwicket for a six and the very next ball the right-hander dispatched Shadab for another muscular shot over the midwicket region. Rohit then ended the over by guiding Shadab’s wrong’un crisply to the right of backward point to reach 44 off 41 deliveries.
In no time, the India skipper brought up his 50th fifty in ODIs with another six, this time off a juicy full toss from the leggie depositing him over deep midwicket and celebrated in style with a cracking boundary off the next delivery before the drinks break helped Pakistan get back into the game.
Shadab responded to the faith shown on him even after being hammered for 31 from his two overs with the wicket of Rohit off a flighted ball outside off, which the Indian wanted to chip in over wide long off but Faheem Ashraf made good ground towards his left to give Pakistan a much-needed breakthrough.
Gill too succumbed in the very next over after scoring a handsome 58 off 52 balls, with Shaheen Shah Afridi avenging his humiliation from the Indian opener with a leg cutter that Gill tried to drive but all he could manage was a top edge that flew to Agha Salman’s hands at cover, to get comeback man KL Rahul on the crease with Virat Kohli in company.
The new pair looked good to capitalize on the formidable century opening stand from Gill and Sharma, but as India reached 147 for 2 in 24.1 overs, a storm halted play at the R Premadasa Stadium, leaving the handful of spectators that gathered on Sunday frustrated.