In a high voltage clash like an India-Pakistan game, teams will naturally rely on the strongest players to take centre-stage. In India’s case, their batting has been known to be their strongest suit. But, off late there were quite a few issues with form to worry about. Fortunately for India, they did not disappoint.

Each of the top-four batsmen notched up half-centuries aided by some crucial reprieves thanks to some sloppy catching by the opposition fielders. The effort paved the way for India to register a comfortable 124-run win over their arch rivals in a rain-truncated group-stage encounter of the ICC Champions Trophy in Birmingham on Sunday.

India openers Rohit Sharma (91) and Shikhar Dhawan (68) laid the foundation with 136-run opening partnership, skipper Virat Kohli (81*) and Yuvraj Singh (53) led the offensive as India posted a total of 319 with the loss of three wickets.

In reply, Pakistan were handed a target of 289 from 41 overs after multiple rain delays saw the target revised a number of times. The target, though, proved well beyond their reach as an inexperienced batting line-up struggled to put up much of a fight.

India had gone into the game with five bowlers, making it imperative for the top-order to deliver the goods. After being asked to bat first, the pressure was on the top-four batsmen to post a sizeable total.

Rohit had entered the contest after a lengthy injury lay-off, Yuvraj too came in having missed the practice game through illness. Kohli too was not in the best of forms, as was Dhawan. All four came good, Rohit weathered the early storm as Pakistan pacer Mohammad Amir began with a fiery opening spell.

The Mumbai batsman played a steady knock as he and partner Dhawan staved off any early pressure from the Pakistan bowling attack. While Amir bowled impressively, a few questionable ploys like handing the ball to spinner Imad Wasim from the other end backfired as the pressure built up by Amir from one end dissipated as the openers fended of the spin with relative ease.

The duo took India past the 100-run mark, their third such feat in the Champions Trophy.

Dhawan was the first to depart, but Rohit continued to trudge along well with Kohli by his side. The day’s second rain break, though, spoiled the momentum as India returned to the field and adopted a measured approach with both batsmen preferring to focus on the singles than the boundaries. It was Rohit who broke the shackles. He smashed a boundary and then a six to bring up the 50-run partnership between him and Kohli.

He, however, was run out soon after while looking to pinch a quick single. His departure brought in Yuvraj. The southpaw was handed a repreive after being dropped on eight by Hasan Ali off pakistan’s young leg-spinner Shadab Khan.

A few overs later, Kohli was also given a life as a top-edge off Wahab Riaz was floored by substitute fielder Fakhar Zaman. The duo made Pakistan pay for the errors as they upped the ante in the slog overs. They added 83 runs between them, off just 38 balls following to dropped catches.

To make matter woes for Pakistan, they also missed the services of their two pacers - Amir and Riaz - who walked off the field during the latter stages of the India innings with injuries.

After Yuvraj and Kohli had their way, Hardik Pandya (20*) too joined in the fun. The all-rounder smashed three back to back sixes in the final over that altogether accounted for 23 runs.

When Yuvraj was handed a life, India had nine more overs to bat. They went on to score 113 runs from those 54 deliveries, 72 off which came off the final 24 deliveries.

The target proved to much for Pakistan, who struggled to form a single effective partnership. Opener Azhar Ali did show some promise with a well made 50, but after his exit, Pakistan’s batsmen withered away one after the other.

Brief scores

  • India 319 in 48 overs (Rohit Sharma 91, Shikhar Dhawan 68, Virat Kohli 81*, Yuvraj Singh 53) beat Pakistan 164 in 33.4 overs (41) (Azhar Ali 50; Umesh Yadav 3/30) by 124 runs.