Birmingham - India captain Virat Kohli praised Yuvraj
Singh's "game-changing" quality after seeing his side launch their
Champions Trophy title-defence with a 124-run rout of arch-rivals Pakistan at
Edgbaston on Sunday.
Of the four batsmen that came to the crease as India piled
up 319 for three in their rain-reduced 48 overs, three - Rohit Sharma (91),
Kohli (81 not out) and Shikhar Dhawan (68) - all made more than Yuvraj's 53.
Yet the way the experienced left-hander - Sunday's match was
his 297th one-day international - took just 32 balls to score his runs saw the
35-year-old named man-of-the-match.
His speed of scoring gave Kohli, who initially struggled for
fluency, time to find his touch during a third-wicket partnership of 93 in 59
balls that took a game of several rain interruptions away from Pakistan.
In the end, Kohli was in complete command as India scored an
astounding 72 runs in their last four overs, with Hardik Pandya hitting three
successive sixes off left-arm spinner Imad Wasim just before the innings ended.
Yet some of Yuvraj's shots were breath-taking, particularly
the way in which he drove a near yorker from paceman Hasan Ali down the ground
for one of his eight fours.
"Yuvi's innings, I think, was the game-changing
innings," Kohli told reporters.
"I felt like a club batsman while playing alongside
Yuvi, the way he was hitting the ball. He took all the pressure off me and
played the way only he can."
It might all have been so different had Pakistan not dropped
two relatively straightforward catches when Yuvraj was on eight and Kohli on
But there was no denying the way India rose to the occasion
in front of a capacity crowd as they recorded their seventh straight win over
Pakistan at an International Cricket Council global event.
"The way we played and the confidence we showed was
very pleasing, the guys were raring to go and willing to take up the
pressure," said Kohli.
"From a team point of view this was a massive win for
us at the start of a big tournament."
Pakistan, by contrast, wilted in what is cricket's most
high-profile fixture, with an estimated television audience of a billion in
addition to a capacity crowd of 24,000 that created a raucous atmosphere at
This was Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur's first direct
involvement in cricket's fiercest rivalry, with Sunday's match taking place in
Birmingham - a city with one of the largest Asian populations in Britain.
The South African, in common with players from both sides,
had tried to downplay the fixture as no more important than any other game.
But that message did not get through to several members of
Arthur's team, with paceman Wahab Riaz losing the plot completely during a
wicketless return of none for 87 in 8.4 overs which ended when the left-armer
fell in his delivery stride and went off with an ankle injury.
But Arthur was angry at suggestions that Wahab had come into
the match carrying an injury.
"Let's get something straight first off. Wahab Riaz was
fully fit. He went through a fitness test; he was declared fully fit,"
"He performed poorly and I'll take the blame.
"I selected him because I wanted him to perform a role.
He didn't execute that role, unfortunately.
"Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't."
Wahab's ankle knock meant the tailender was unable to bat in
a sedate run chase that never got going before Pakistan eventually slumped to
164 all out.
"The only thing I can think is the magnitude of the
situation got to them," said Arthur, a former coach of both South Africa
"But we'll bounce back from it," insisted Arthur,
whose side must beat South Africa at Edgbaston on Wednesday to have any hope of
reaching the semi-finals.