BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — India put already-eliminated Pakistan out of its misery in the Champions Trophy by thrashing its fierce rival by eight wickets in a rain-hit match on Saturday, clinching a third straight win for the tournament favorite.
In-form opener Shikhar Dhawan caressed a fluent 48 at Edgbaston to help guide the Indians to their target, revised three times because of persistent showers in Birmingham, of 102 with 17 balls of their maximum 22 overs remaining.
Pakistan will return home with three successive losses from a miserable Group B campaign in which its malfunctioning batting lineup failed to pass 200. Beating its biggest foe in what is always a spectacular, passionate sporting occasion would have given the Pakistanis something to cling to but they were bowled out for 165 in 39.4 overs, with two frustrating rain delays having initially reduced the match to 40 overs a side.
Doubts over whether this youthful India side would rise to the challenge in the Champions Trophy and back up the cricket-mad country's success in the 2011 World Cup have been dismissed by a string of impressive wins, establishing the team as the favorite heading into the semifinals.
"If any team wins (all) their games, they will be favorites," said India paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who took a team-best 2-19 off his eight overs. "It's important to keep the momentum going from these group matches."
And in Dhawan, India has arguably the player of the tournament. The left-handed batsman scored 114 and 102 in wins over South Africa and West Indies and he sparked a comfortable run chase in front of 22,832 spectators, the majority appearing to be India fans.
Cutting and pulling with aplomb, he made five fours in his 41-ball knock. By the time he was out, holing out to third man in search of another boundary, India was 78-2 and just 24 runs from victory with nearly eight overs left.
Virat Kohli (22) and Dinesh Karthik (11) got the Indians over the line. They started the reply requiring 168 off 40 overs but a first rain break reduced that target to 157 off 36 overs, using Duckworth-Lewis calculations. After the next delay — at 11.3 overs with the team 63-1 — the target was lowered to 102 but it was always well within their reach.
This result will hurt the pride of Pakistan's players and fans, and but head coach Dav Whatmore refused to criticize his batting department after another sorry show here and will not be making wholsesale changes.
"We haven't been able to score enough runs and we have been losing wickets in clusters," he said. "But this is a three-game series." "You don't turn into a bad team overnight," Whatmore added. "You do have some bad games and unfortunately we had three (in a row)."
Admittedly up against classy slow bowlers in Ravindra Jadeja (2-30) and Ravichandran Ashwin (2-30), wickets fell cheaply with only the recalled Asad Shafiq managing to impress with 41. Pakistan got little out of Kumar, who kept a great line early on — conceding just two runs in his first three overs in which he snared Nasir Jamshed (2).
Muhammad Hafeez edged the first ball after the first restart after rain, from Kumar, to Mahendra Singh Dhoni behind the stumps for 27 and Kamran Akmal (22) had also departed by the time the second batch of rain arrived, with the score at 70-3.
The plucky Shafiq was the first of the final six wickets to fall in 51 balls, with just 34 runs added as the tail failed to wag. Given the intense rivalry between the two countries based on long-standing political differences, this had long been viewed as the marquee match of the group stage, with tickets selling out within 30 minutes when they went on sale in October.
Its importance was diluted after the early group results but that didn't stop horn-blowing fans draped in flags turning out in force and providing banter that appeared good-natured throughout.