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India show class to crush Pakistan

Rohit Sharma

Rohit Sharma spearheads India's comfortable pursuit of 159 with a blistering 80 off 53 balls. They won by nine wickets

India underlined their status as ICC World Twenty20 favourites with a crushing nine-wicket win over Pakistan at The Oval.

A ruthless performance with the bat allowed India to cruise to their target of 159 with three overs to spare.

Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir scored 80 and 52 respectively to beat Pakistan, who had been looking to avenge their 2007 final defeat against their rivals.

Pakistan had earlier looked to be in a strong position after they picked apart India’s pace attack of RP Singh and Praveen Kumar.

Misbah-ul-Haq (37 not out) and Yasir Arafat (25 not out) smashed 45 off 27 balls after Ahmed Shehzad (25) and Kamran Akmal (19) had set them on their way.

Younus Khan also chipped in with a quickfire 32 before being removed by Harbhajan Singh.

But India set about chasing their opponents’ total in emphatic fashion, with Sharma and Gambhir giving the 23,000 sell-out crowd a masterclass in destructive strokeplay.

Yasir Arafat took particular punishment as he was dispatched for 25 off his opening three overs.

Umar Gul was also made to pay for his wayward bowling and was hit to the boundary four times before being hauled off by Younus after two overs.

Younus changed his attack but neither of the four new bowlers, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanvir, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Aamer, could stop Sharma and Gambhir from finding the boundary and racing towards the Pakistan total.

The pair brought up the 100 off 71 balls, Sharma reaching his fifty in the 11th over off just 37 deliveries.

MS Dhoni & Younus Khan

MS Dhoni stumps opposite number Younus Khan as India restrict Pakistan to 158 for six in their final warm-up match

India were scoring at more than eight an over by the time Sharma pulled Afridi over midwicket for six, and Pakistan had to wait until the 17th over before Aamer finally made the breakthrough when Sharma was superbly taken at midwicket by Shehzad.

Gambhir reached his fifty later in the over before he and MS Dhoni saw India past the finishing post.

Dhoni played down the importance of the victory despite admitting it was one of the finest India performances he had seen.

"It was one of the best games we have played and it will be tough to replicate this performance - it was brilliant," he said.

“We put a lot of pressure on them, restricted their singles and we tried to put as much pressure on them as we could.

“You have to perform like this throughout the tournament to win. You can be thrown out of the tournament easily, especially at the knockout stage.

"We are the side that has done well, but that's all on paper after all that you have to go and do it but we have potential and we will be a tough team to beat."

Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam insisted he was not worried after his side slipped to a second loss in three days.

"I'm not really concerned," he said. "It's early days and the first match we will come good at the right time.

"We have no excuses. We have lost two games but we will perform when the real time comes."