MANCHESTER: So for all the hype, when it came to the crunch, the clash between the cricketing giants of the sub-continent played against a back-drop of political tension, ended with a comfortable, incident-free, win for India over Pakistan.
India won the rain-affected game by 89 runs under the Duckworth-Lewis method, but that scoreline does little to emphasis the ease with which Virat Kohli’s team won in a match they dominated with bat and ball.
There was no tension between the fans in the capacity crowd at Old Trafford, no sign of animosity between the players and, somewhat disappointingly, none of the positive tension that a close contest would bring.
India opener Rohit Sharma, whose superb 140 proved decisive, was unsurprised by the sense of normality in a game which, to those on the outside, often appears ripe for needle.
“Whenever we have played against each other it has always been like that. I don’t know what it seems like from the outside but we were playing a game against another opposition,” he told reporters after the victory, which maintained India’s unbeaten start, four games into the group stage.
“For us it doesn’t matter, we are here on a mission and our focus is to make sure that we accomplish that mission. All the outside talk will keep happening but for us it is just to focus on the job at hand and make sure we get that job done,” he added.
The job was done in some style, with Rohit leading the way with his 14 fours and three sixes in a 113 ball knock that exuded quality.
His 136-run opening partnership with K.L. Rahul and then 98-run effort with Kohli set the tone for an Indian performance that was professional in all three departments.
“Rohit’s knock was outstanding but to get to 330 you need a team effort and that is exactly what happened,” said Kohli. “Rohit is such a good ODI player, when he gets to 70 he is unstoppable. It allows me to come in and play in a certain role, the guys are playing their roles nicely.”
The attacking opener, who led his IPL side Mumbai Indians to their fourth IPL title in May, has already scored 319 runs in three innings as India are unbeaten in four World Cup games, including a washout.
A second century from three innings in this tournament, shows the level at which Rohit is playing at and he looked well capable of going on for a fourth career ODI double century before he got himself out with an ill-chosen scoop shot.
“When you are playing where the conditions are going to challenge you, as a batsman, you’ve just got to assess the conditions first because the pitch was under the cover for a long time,” said Sharma. “So the idea was not to lose wickets and build a platform and try to take the game forward after that.”
Sharma, who recorded his 24th ODI ton, said: “They bowled, I guess, pretty well in the first half. The first 10 overs, I would say.
“Of course, we know in England, once you’re in, it’s very hard for the bowlers to come back, and there’s not enough room for error.”
And on Father’s Day in England, the 32-year-old credited his positive frame of mind to the arrival of his daughter Samaira in December.
“I think it’s just the space I am in right now. It’s a very good phase in my life. Having a daughter, a newly born daughter in my life actually has put me in a good space,” he said. “So, yeah, I think I’m enjoying my cricket coming off a great IPL campaign and then starting off here. We always know how important it is to start well.”
The win extends India’s domination of their rivals in World Cup contests to 7-0 and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed conceded Kohli’s side handled the expectations better.
“If you talk about World Cup matches [with India], definitely, we’re not winning the World Cup matches. I think it’s a special game, those teams who handle [pressure] well… that’s why India won here again and previously as well,” he said.