15th of February, probably the most anticipated day of the past four years for most Indians. Everyone forgot about Valentine’s Day in all the excitement for the 15th of Feb. India vs. Pakistan.
It was an incredibly hot afternoon in Adelaide and all the Indian and Pakistani fans had swarmed into the city for the day. The streets were bathed in blues and greens and the air filled with drumming and chanting. The Adelaide Oval saw over 40,000 fans gather in the stadium for the match in wigs and costimes with flags and drums, it was an incredible sight. The match was set to be the most watched game in the history of cricket. It was expected that over a billion viewers would tune in to watch India vs Pakistan.
It was MS Dhoni who won the toss and decided to bat first, the crowd noise when he won the toss was as though India had already won the game.
The match began well for Pakistan when they removed Rohit Sharma early on in the eighth over, but that was their only significant breakthrough until the 46th over. Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan put on a great partnership of 127 runs and Virat Kohli went on to once again impress the cricketing world and score an incredible century. The young star smashed through more records as he became the first Indian to score a century in a World Cup against Pakistan. He also became the first Indian to score a century in an World Cup hosted by Australia. Kohli hadn’t had the best time in the Carlton tri-series against England and Australia even though he had played beautifully in the Test matches but as always, when it really mattered, Kohli stepped up to the challenge. It could have ended very differently for Pakistan though had they taken all of their chances. Kohli was dropped on three and 76 and once he was dismissed, India faced some real trouble with five wickets falling in the space of 24 runs. Had Pakistan dismissed him earlier they may have been chasing a much more reachable total.
Misbah Ul Haq ran out Shikhar Dhawan on 73 when India were on 163 but that only brought in Suresh Raina. A very strange decision as Ajinkya Rahane was yet to bat. Whatever Dhoni’s reasoning was to push Raina up the order, it appeared to be a good one. Raina hit three sixes and five fours in his innings and scored at better than a run a ball. He took some of the pressure of Kohli which likely helped the vice-captain reach his century. India didn’t lose another wicket until 273 runs when Kohli edged the ball to Umar Akmal in the 46th over. It looked as though they would easily reach 320+ runs considering they were only three wickets down even without Kohli, especially with Dhoni ‘the finisher’ to come. However, India stuttered. As soon as Kohli got out, Raina followed suit along with Ravindra Jadeja and Ajinkya Rahane who got out for three and a duck respectively. Dhoni contributed to the total but only 27 runs were scored in the final four overs and it almost looked like India would not reach 300. Sohail Khan dragged back the Indians as he went on to pick up five wickets. Understandably the Indian batsmen were going in to swing for the ball considering their total already and the fact that they had wickets in hand. Though with four overs to go and two set batsmen just being dismissed, it was not an ideal situation. India could have ended on a much higher total had Raina become slightly more careful once Kohli was dismissed.
Regardless of India’s ending, 300 runs was going to be a difficult chase for Pakistan. They lost their first wicket fairly early but slowly built back up. Haris Sohail along with Ahmed Shehzad put on a 68 run partnership for the second wicket. Once again though, India broke through the partnership as it was beginning to look good. Misbah Ul Haq, the captain, was the next man in who had rescued Pakistan on more than one occasion. Once again his team needed him to perform but they could not provide the support to back him up. The next three wickets fell in the space of two runs leaving Pakistan 103-5. Shahid Afridi came in and made a start, he hit a six but never looked completely comfortable. Had Afridi been having a good day, Pakistan might have gotten much closer to the 300 target. However he was removed by another great spell from Mohammed Shami and from there on it was clear that India had the game. Misbah went on to score 76 but Pakistan still fell 76 runs short of the total.
The Indian bowlers did not look like their usual uncompetitive selves, Dhoni coaxed fiery spells out of his fast bowlers and used them very effectively. Shami picked up five wickets and both Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav picked up two each. The fast bowlers were well backed up by Ravindra Jadeja who took a wicket and Ravi Ashwin who bowled three maiden overs and also picked up a wicket. It was an all-round strong opening performance by India and a positive start in their quest to retain the World Cup title.