Colombo: Under a sunny Colombo sky, captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill slammed quickfire fifties before falling in quick succession and was followed by heavy rains that moved the Asia Cup Super Four match between the archrivals into a reserve day.
A few days back, the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) had added a reserve day only for this clash as rains were predicted to wash off the game at the R. Premadasa Stadium. Now as things stand, the reserve day will be in play, with the game to restart from it was stopped on Monday.
The rain started at 4:53pm to put the proceedings on hold, with India at 147/2 in 24.1 overs – Rohit Sharma made 56 while Gill scored 58. An inspection was scheduled for 7:30pm, before a second inspection was fixed for 8pm due to the damp patches at the long-on, point and square leg needing more work.
The ground staff used sponges, and sawdust to dry wet patches and brought out a combination made of three fans mounted on a wheeled frame to remove moisture from the patches. With the cut-off for the start of a 20-overs chase being 10:36pm, another inspection was scheduled at 8:30pm.
With the best-case scenario being a 34-over game if the match started at 9pm, rain returned to spoil those plans, forcing the covers to come back. The umpires then decided that the 50-over game would be played on the reserve day, which also had a 90% rain prediction.
It means that India will be playing on three consecutive days, with their next Super Four game against Sri Lanka at the same venue on September 12. Persistent rain had prevented a result when the two teams played in the league stage match in Pallekele on September 2.
Before the rain started, Sharma and Gill put on a stunning exhibition of strokeplay to pulverise the Pakistan bowlers in their 121-run opening partnership. Sharma set the tone for rattling Pakistan by flicking Shaheen Shah Afridi over square leg for a six on the last ball of the opening over.
Though the pitch had little movement to offer, Sharma and Gill were positive in their footwork and even danced down the pitch, which was reflected in their strokeplay too. After Sharma drove Naseem Shah through extra cover for four, Gill didn’t let Afridi settle with three scintillating boundaries in the arc from mid-off to fine leg.
Naseem was holding one end tight with his accurate line and length, even though Gill took three more boundaries off Shaheen, who switched to round the wicket angle and sprayed it full in search of swing. Gill also had luck on his side, when an outside edge off Naseem went between two fielders at slips for a boundary.
Gill was a far different player from his struggles against the same bowling line-up last week, feasting on short balls from Faheem Ashraf and Haris Rauf to reach his fifty off just 37 balls. Sharma overcame his slowdown period by flicking and pulling off Naseem handsomely, before welcoming Rauf with his trademark pull to pile more pressure on Pakistan.
The introduction of spin didn’t give Pakistan the desired result as Sharma pulled Shadab Khan for back-to-back sixes, before cutting for four more to take 19 runs off the leg-spinner’s opening over. Sharma would reach his fifty in style in just 42 balls, smacking Shadab over deep mid-wicket for six, followed by another cut going for four.
But Shadab bounced back in the 17th over, enticing Sharma to chip a leg-break over the off-side. The Indian skipper went for the loft but was caught by the long-off fielder running 10 metres to his left. One brought two for Pakistan as Gill chipped a Shaheen slower delivery to cover.
K.L. Rahul, playing in his first competitive game since May 1 after a right thigh injury lay-off, was splendid in his timing of pulling Shaheen and Haris over mid-wicket for boundaries. He and Virat Kohli were motoring at eight and 17 respectively before rain arrived to stop the proceedings for the day.
India 147/2 in 24.1 overs (Shubman Gill 58, Rohit Sharma 56; Shaheen Shah Afridi 1-37, Shadab Khan 1-45) against Pakistan