Asia Cup: Kuldeep’s fifer after Kohli, Rahul tons help India beat Pakistan by 228 runs

Back in competitive cricket after almost four months due to an injury lay-off, KL Rahul on Monday showed why Indian…

Asia Cup: Kuldeep’s fifer after Kohli, Rahul tons help India beat Pakistan by 228 runs

India's Kannanur Lokesh Rahul (R) and India's Virat Kohli (L) (Photo: AFP)

Back in competitive cricket after almost four months due to an injury lay-off, KL Rahul on Monday showed why Indian selectors were desperate to get him back in the ICC World Cup squad. Resuming from an unbeaten 17, the Karnataka right-hander dominated the proceedings with a scintillating century against a Pakistan attack that lacked the sting after losing Haris Rauf, and later Naseem Shah.

Former India skipper Virat Kohli, who also went undefeated after scoring eight runs on Sunday, joined the party by getting his fourth successive ODI century at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and 47th overall in 50 over cricket, as the India pair put up 233 runs for the second wicket partnership to post a massive 356/2 at the end of 50 overs. Kohli eventually finished on an unbeaten 122 off 94 balls while Rahul ended 111 not out off 106 deliveries.

In reply, Pakistan’s chase never really took off with regular wickets affecting their tempo and were eventually skittled out for a meagre 128 in 32 overs. Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav emerged the wrecker-in-chief taking five wickets to demolish Pakistan’s middle order after the pacers got the top half, including the prized scalp of skipper Babar Azam (10) early before the rain break halted play for more than an hour and a half.


New dad Jasprit Bumrah never looked he was out of the game for so long as he managed to extract banana swing from the Premadasa turf from the word go while first change Hardik Pandya got a perfect length ball to jag back in from outside off to cut Babar in half and crash into the off stump. Shardul Thakur then inflicted further damage by packing back Mohammed Rizwan, whose attempt to push a length ball to mid-on resulted in an edge back to KL Rahul.

Reduced to 47 for 3, Pakistan would have been four down in no time had Rohit at slip, collected the thick edge from opener Fakhar Zaman off left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav on the second ball of his spell. He however, got rid of the southpaw in his next over, thus ending his 50-ball stay that produced 27 runs. Salman Agha, who injured himself on his face while attempting a sweep shot off Ravindra Jadeja was Kuldeep’s second victim that left Pakistan reeling at 96 for 5 midway into the game.

Thereafter it was one way traffic in favour of India as Kuldeep removed Iftikhar Ahmed (23), Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf in no time. The pace bowling pair of Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf did not turn out to bat.

Earlier, almost 24 hours after play resumed in the Asia Cup Super Four match, the Indian pair of KL Rahul and Virat Kohli came all guns blazing against Pakistan, who were forced to employ part-time off-spinner Iftikhar to bowl the quota of overs left by Haris and Naseem. Both Rahul and Kohli used that to their advantage, making it a nightmarish outing for the Men-in-Green.

On resumption, it seemed India were in no mood for accumulation, and once Rahul spotted the ball in Iftikhar’s hands, his eyes lit up, and what followed was a sweep for a six, followed by a cut as he waited for the shorter delivery. Shadab Khan, the frontline spinner in the side, was also taken to the cleaners by the Indian pair, with his 10 overs costing Pakistan 71 runs.

Pakistan’s pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi also hardly found any respite, leaking 79 runs from his quota of 10 overs.

Rahul also flaunted his improved fitness by running hard between the wickets, and exhibited his wide range of strokes to first get to his fifty off 60 balls before stepping up the gas to reach the three-figure mark in another 40 balls.

At the other end, Kohli first brought up a half-century of 55 balls and then took just 29 more to notch up a well deserved century. In the process, Kohli breezed past the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 13,000 ODI runs in his 267th innings. This makes him the fastest batter to 8000, 9000, 10000, 11000, 120000 and now 13000 ODI runs.

Before the game, Kohli, with 12902 runs, needed 98 runs, and the Delhi batter accomplished the feat in style to storm past Tendulkar’s record. He reached the landmark in 54 fewer innings than Tendulkar (321 innings).

Earlier on Sunday, the Indian openers Shubman Gill (58) and skipper Rohit Sharma (56) set the tone for the massive score with a 121-run opening stand before Rahul and Kohli joined forces.

India will now return on Tuesday to take on Sri Lanka at the same venue.