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Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Kuldeep star as India pick up biggest win over Pakistan

Virat Kohli’s supreme fitness was evident in his 47th ODI century while comeback man KL Rahul produced an equally engaging ton on comeback as India thrashed a listless Pakistan by record 228-run margin in a rain-marred Super Four game of the Asia Cup in Colombo on Sunday.

This is India’s biggest win in terms of runs against the cross-border neighbours.

India posted an imposing 356 for 2, as Kohli (122 not out off 94 balls) and Rahul (111 not out off 106 balls), which was his sixth ODI hundred, pummelled a hapless Pakistan, whose chase ended at 128 for 8 as Kuldeep Yadav (5/25) scythed through them.

IMAGE: Kuldeep Yadav picked up a five-wicket haul. Photograph: BCCI/X

On the century count in ODIs, Kohli now stands just two behind Sachin Tendulkar’s record 49.

Once India restarted the day from 147 for 2 in 24.1 overs, they needed Kohli and Rahul, the two overnight batters, to go big, and they did that in some style.

Along with Rahul, Kohli amassed 233 runs for the unbeaten third wicket stand – the highest ODI partnership for India against Pakistan.

IMAGE: Jasprit Bumrah handed India the first breakthrough. Photograph: BCCI/X

En route to his 77th international century, Kohli also added some personal milestones to an already long list, becoming the fastest batsman to 13000 ODI runs and scoring his fourth ton in as many innings at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Kohli is only the second batter to achieve the feat of scoring four successive hundreds at a venue after South Africa’s Hashim Amla, who made this sequence at Centurion.

However, Rahul’s hundred was equally important from a team’s perspective.

IMAGE: KL Rahul and Virat Kohli put up a sizzling partnership for the third-wicket. Photograph: BCCI/X

Rahul, who was playing for India for the first time since earlier this March after an injury lay-off, batted for 141 minutes without any discomfort, and later kept wickets to underline his return to full fitness.

Beyond the cold realm of numbers, the knocks of Kohli and Rahul carried immeasurable aesthetic value.

IMAGE: Virat Kohli hammered his 47th ODI century. Photograph: BCCI/X

The ball was coming onto the bat nicely, and Pakistan attack was also defanged in the absence of injured Haris Rauf, who had brought in a semblance of control the previous day with a quick spell.

Barring Naseem Shah, none of the other four Pakistan bowlers managed to even beat Kohli and Rahul, who batted with a lot of panache. Kohli took his time to get going, allowing Rahul to do the early running.

But once he went past 50, Kohli switched the gears seamlessly, as he often does.

IMAGE: KL Rahul hammered a ton on his comeback. Photograph: BCCI/X

The first indication of a transformed Kohli came when he caned pacer Faheem Ashraf through the covers for a four. Kohli brought his quick hands into play to pounce on a length ball on the off-stump, and from that point he seldom looked back.

His first fifty had come in 55 balls, and the remaining 72 runs cascaded in just 39 balls, as Pakistan bowlers were put through the wringer. Sensing the mood that Kohli was in, Rahul slightly took his feet off the pedal.

The 31-year-old knew a big score was there for the taking and he just needed to keep his focus right on the button.

Pakistan bowlers erred in length against Rahul, giving him enough space outside the off-stump and the Bangalore man exploited it to the hilt to get some easy boundaries.

IMAGE: Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill put up a century-stand. Photograph: BCCI/X

Four of his 12 boundaries came between point and third man and he collected a total of 24 runs from that region, the most productive in his innings.

After allowing Rahul to soak in his hundred, Kohli too went past the mark with a single and celebrated his own moment with gusto – a jump and punch in the air. Kohli, perhaps, saved his best for the last.

In the 50th over, the former captain carted Ashraf for two overs, a paddle sweep and a strike over cover, and applied the finishing touches with a whistling six over long-on.

IMAGE: Hardik Pandya picked up the prized scalp of Babar Azam. Photograph: BCCI/X

Indian bowlers did not have to do anything extraordinary as they were defending 357, and the highest-ever run chase at this venue was 292.

Pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who was bowling in an ODI for the first time since July 2022, gave India the perfect start, sending Imam-ul-Haq into the hands of Shubman Gill at second slip.

Hardik Pandya breached the defence of Pakistan captain Babar Azam with a delivery that shaped in just that bit.

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur celebrates after removing Mohammed Rizwan. Photograph: BCCI/X

Kuldeep, India’s best bowler in ODIs this year, hastened their fall as the left-arm wrist spinner bamboozled the Pakistan middle and late order with his endless variations.

The injured Rauf and Naseem Shah did not come out to bat as Indian bowlers were not even required to strive for 10 wickets.

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