Unbeaten fifties by captain Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill powered India to the Super Fours stage of the Asia Cup with a 10-wicket thrashing of Nepal in their Group A match at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Monday.
After Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Siraj picked three wickets apiece while Aasif Sheikh and Sompal Kami played gusty knocks in guiding Nepal to a competitive 230, the rain stopped the proceedings for two hours. By then, India reached 17 for no loss in 2.1 overs and the target was then revised to 145 in 23 overs as per DLS method when the game resumed at 10:15 pm.
Sharma (74 not out off 59 balls) and Gill (67 not out off 62 balls) slammed whirlwind fifties while stitching an unbroken opening partnership to complete the chase with 17 balls to spare.
While Sharma hit six fours and five sixes, Gill slammed eight fours and a six in ensuring India qualified for the next stage of the competition, making up for a sloppy fielding show and lacklustre bowling effort.
India’s chase began with Sharma being cautious and surviving an LBW appeal off Karan KC. From the other end, Gill stood outside his crease and crisply steered Kami for three off-side boundaries. Just as Sharma broke the shackles by dancing down the pitch off Karan over mid-on for four, a drizzle started and stopped the proceedings for nearly two hours.
Post resumption, Gill danced down the pitch to slap through cover while Sharma scooped off Karan for another four. Sharma then slog-swept Sandeep Lamichhane twice for a four and six respectively. After India reached its fifty in 7.5 overs, Lamichhane came under further attack from Gill, who danced down the pitch to loft him for six.
The leg-spinner came under further attack from Sharma, who pulled him for four and smashed a slog-sweep for six. The most amazing shot of the innings came from Sharma’s blade when he used his wrists to whip a flick against Dipendra Singh Airee for six.
Kami was re-introduced and Gill welcomed him by clipping him through backward square leg for four, followed by Sharma pulling over mid-wicket for another boundary to get his fifty. Sharma pulled Lalit Rajbanshi for another six, while Gill reached his fifty in the same fashion off Lamichhane for four.
Karan’s reintroduction didn’t change much as Sharma lofted him cleanly over long-off for six, before cutting off Gulsan Jha for four more. Gill then finished off the chase in style with a fine glance for four to seal India’s win.
Earlier, on a two-paced pitch, Nepal put up a much-improved batting display after being skittled out for 104 against Pakistan last week. Sheikh, the wicketkeeper-batter, was brilliant in his 58 off 97 balls, laced with eight fours.
After an hour's rain interruption, Kami struck a few shots to take Nepal past 200 with his 56-ball 48. Nepal were also aided by some erratic bowling from India, who bowled too many short and back-of-length deliveries. There was also very sloppy work from India in fielding, leading to three catches being dropped in the first five overs and plenty of misfields happening.
In a lacklustre Indian bowling performance, Jadeja stood out with his 3-40, while Siraj took the same number of wickets, but conceded 61 runs in 9.2 overs. Mohammed Shami, Hardik Pandya and Shardul Thakur picked a wicket each while Kuldeep Yadav gave away only 34 runs in his ten overs.
After India elected to bowl first, Shreyas Iyer and Virat Kohli dropped catches of Kushal Bhurtel and Sheikh on successive deliveries. Bhurtel had another escape when Ishan Kishan dropped a straightforward chance off Shami in the fifth over.
Bhurtel and Sheikh made the most out of India's shelling chances by carting boundaries on fuller deliveries with superb timing while countering the short-ball challenge from the pacers with aplomb via pulls to put a 65-run opening partnership.
India finally had a breakthrough in the last over of power-play when Thakur got a slight away movement and got Bhurtel to nick behind to Kishan. Jadeja came in to have Bhim Sharki chop onto his stumps, followed by Rohit Paudel caught sharply at first slip and Kaushal Malla miscued a catch to mid-off.
But Sheikh marched forward, pulling, flicking and driving with ease to reach his fifty in the 28th over. His vigil was ended in the 30th over when his attempted flick took a leading edge to cover off Siraj before Gulsan nicked behind off him.
Airee and Kami hit a couple of boundaries before rain interrupted proceedings. Post resumption, Pandya broke the 50-run partnership when he trapped Airee lbw. Kami struck sixes on short balls from Siraj and Pandya, before falling two short of his fifty by nicking behind to a diving Kishan off Shami. Lamichhane was run out while Siraj castled Rajbanshi to end Nepal’s innings in the 49th over.
Nepal 230 all out in 48.2 overs (Aasif Sheikh 58, Sompal Kami 48; Ravindra Jadeja 3-40, Mohammed Siraj 3-61) lost to India 147 for no loss in 20.1 overs (Rohit Sharma 74 not out, Shubman Gill 67 not out) by ten wickets via DLS method.