So, it continues, India's winning streak over Pakistan in the World Cups. It's now 7-0 in favour of the Men in Blue. The match that was hyped as usual and was keenly anticipated by everyone turned out to be a one-sided affair with Virat Kohli's team outplaying their opponents in all aspects of the game – batting, bowling and fielding.
So, how can we explain the complete collapse of Pakistan in this match against their neighbours? Was it another case of them wilting under the psychological pressure of playing against India in a World Cup? Or was it just lack of quality compared to the Indian team? Let us identify the 4 factors that were chiefly responsible for India thrashing Pakistan in this match.
The biggest share of blame for this defeat for Pakistan lies with their captain Sarfaraz Ahmed. It sounds harsh but his decision to bowl first against India was inexcusably bad. The fact is that Pakistan have never been as good at chasing as teams like India and England. But against India in a high-pressure game like this, to put your batting line-up under the pressure of chasing was a shocking decision. Since Pakistan's victory in the Champions Trophy had come batting first, it would have made perfect sense to repeat the same thing here. Knowing fully well that India have a strong batting line-up and they are unlikely to get bundled out for a low score, he should have opted for setting a target and then relying on his bowlers to restrict them. This is how they won the match against England. But he heavily overestimated the overcast conditions and opted to field first. It took less than five overs to realise that India are going to get a big score. With the ball not swinging and seaming, the signs were already ominous.
Sensible batting by Indian openers
A lot of credit must go to the smartness of Indian openers. The ball wasn't swinging or seaming. It might have been tempting for them to go for big shots and launch an all-out attack. But they realised that Mohammad Amir may be the most threatening of the bowlers and both KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma decided to see off the opening spell without taking any great risks. Once Amir's opening spell was done, India were almost certain to get a big score.
Opening spell by Bhuvi and Bumrah
Since there wasn't much swing and seam, it might have been difficult for the Indian new ball pair of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah also to make an impact early on. However, the duo bowled such good line and lengths that the Pakistani openers weren't able to get away to a flying start. Both the right-arm seamers angled the ball across the two Pakistani left-handed openers and beat the outside edge many times. This ensured that Pakistan remained behind the game all the time. If they had to chase down a score of 337, a good start was necessary as it may have pushed the Indians back. But by preventing that good start for Pakistan, Bhuvi and Bumrah put another nail in Pakistan's coffin.
While Pakistan's two spinners, Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, hardly turned a ball, Kuldeep Yadav produced a spin-bowling masterpiece for his team. Using great variations of flight and pace, he prevented the Pakistani batsmen from attacking him despite the soaring required run rate. The delivery that got the scalp of Babar Azam was a thing of beauty. It was flighted and bowled at a slower pace. Babar got deceived and, in the end, saw the ball snuck through between bat and pad to rattle the stumps. It showed that Kuldeep is a bowler of genuine quality and not just a few mystery balls. It was this wicket that turned the match around. Had Babar stayed for a bit longer, the partnership between him and Fakhar may have taken the game away from India as they were starting to play more aggressively.