Sharma leads India to huge win over Pakistan
by AFP

Ground:Kennington Oval, Kennington
Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Player:Misbah-ul-Haq, G Gambhir, RG Sharma
Event:ICC World Twenty20 2009

DateLine: 4th June 2009


Brilliant batting from Rohit Sharma saw defending champions India to a crushing nine-wicket win over arch-rivals Pakistan in their ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match at the Oval here on Tuesday.


Sharma made 80 and shared a huge first-wicket stand of 140 with left-hander Gautam Gambhir (52 not out) that got India to the brink of their 159 target.


It needed a fine catch in the deep by Ahmed Shehzad off Mohammad Amir, one of seven bowlers used, to end Sharma's innings of 93 balls with two sixes and nine fours.


But India still won with three overs to spare.


India, who lost to New Zealand by nine runs in their previous warm-up match, were again without star batsman Virender Sehwag because of a shoulder injury.


But such was Sharma's form, Sehwag was barely missed as Pakistan suffered a second heavy warm-up defeat after their 59-run loss to South Africa.


"It's always better to have a problem of plenty than have no-one who can fill the space," India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said of the promotion of former No 3 Sharma.


"Rohit was always keen on opening, when Viru was injured. He has batted at No 3, even when he plays the quickest of bowlers he has got the time and the talent. Hopefully he'll get those runs throughout tournament, that will really help the middle order."


This match was a repeat of the 2007 final which India won by five runs.


But here a capacity crowd had to be content with Indian excellence alone.


Fast bowler Ishant Sharma led the India attack with one for 18 in three overs as they restricted Pakistan to 158 for six in 20 overs.


Pakistan lost three wickets with their score on 45 and it needed an unbroken stand of 45 between Misbah-ul-Haq (37 not out) and Yasir Arafat (25 not out) to give them some hope of staying in the game.


India, chasing 159 for victory, saw Sharma loft Arafat for six and pull Amir for four.


Meanwhile Gambhir weighed in with the occasional blazing hit, pulling leg-spinner Shahid Afridi to the mid-wicket boundary during his 45-ball fifty.


Unusually for a warm-up, this game was being played in front of a 23,000 sell-out crowd.


"India-Pakistan is always at the same intensity," said Dhoni.


"I think this will be the best crowd throughout the tournament, the noise was amazing. A jam-packed crowd helps you give your best."


Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam said: "I thought we were 20 or 30 runs short - 158 was not a bad score though, we didn't bowl well today, especially the spinners."


But despite two heavy warm-up defeats, Intikhab remained upbeat. "This was a dress rehearsal. The first (proper) match we play is against England and I am sure they will come good at the right time."


After Pakistan captain Younus Khan won the toss and batted, India saw Praveen Kumar bowl Shehzeb Hussain for nought with the fifth ball of the match.


New batsman Kamran Akmal struck several stylish boundaries but his exit sparked a collapse that saw three wickets lost with the score on 45.


Akmal was brilliantly run-out by Suresh Raina's diving underarm direct hit and three balls later Raina was involved again when he caught Shehzad off Ishant Sharma.


Afridi can turn any match with his destructive batting but next ball he was out for a golden duck, caught behind off Irfan Pathan.


A composed stand of 50 in 45 balls between Younus and Misbah-ul-Haq repaired some of the early damage before Younus was stumped for a run-a-ball 32 off Harbhajan Singh.


India begn the tournament proper against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Saturday while Pakistan face England at The Oval 24 hours later.

(Article: Copyright © 2009 AFP)


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