Cool-headed Virat Kohli scored an unbeaten half century as India cruised to a comfortable six-wicket victory over arch rivals Pakistan at Kolkata's Eden Gardens in the World Twenty20 Saturday.
Pre-tournament favourites India put their campaign back on track after suffering a shock loss against New Zealand in the tournament opener, extending their jinx in major tournaments against Pakistan.
Chasing 119 on a track that seemed dual-paced, India lost their top three batsmen early only to see Kohli and Yuvraj Singh put together a 61-run, fourth-wicket partnership to help the hosts canter home in 15.5 overs in a game reduced to 18 overs a side because of rain.
Kohli (55 not out) and Yuvraj combined caution and aggression to blunt the Pakistan bowling attack, which seemed to miss left-arm spinner Imad Wasim, who made way for Mohammad Sami.
Sami did make an impression by sending back Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina in his opening over to be on hat-trick but Pakistan's four-pronged pace attack had no answers to Kohli's batting.
Yuvraj (24) fell to Wahab Riaz, but Kohli, who was joined by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the finale, was in cruise control as his 37-ball knock was laced by seven boundaries and a six.
Dhoni (13 not out) swiftly joined the party as he hit a six to level the scores and then hit the winning runs in front of a raucous crowd.
Earlier, Ahmed Shehzad and Shoaib Malik played useful cameos to guide Pakistan to 118 for five, a score which looked competitive on a tricky surface.
Put in to bat on a moisture-laden pitch that saw heavy rains through the day, Pakistan openers Sharjeel Khan (17) and Shehzad (25) played cautiously at first and then lost their wickets as they tried to accelerate.
Indian spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Suresh Raina looked dangerous in their opening spells on a track that provided turn and bounce, but the Pakistan batsmen did well to show patience.
Fresh from his match-winning exploits against Bangladesh, skipper Shahid Afridi (8) promoted himself to number three but the boom was missing from his shots this time around.
The hard-hitting batsman could only find a single boundary in his scratchy 14-ball stay as he walked back amid loud cheers from the capacity crowd.
Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik then stitched together a crucial 41-run stand that helped Pakistan put up what seemed a respectable score.
Akmal (22), whose 16-ball knock was studded with a boundary and a six, was caught behind off Ravindra Jadeja's left-arm spin.
Innings top-scorer Malik (26), who hit three boundaries and a six in his 26-run innings, soon joined Akmal in the dug-out after trying to force Ashish Nehra's pace.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez finished off the innings as Pakistan got seven off the last over.
But Pakistan's efforts were negated by Kohli who deservedly got the man of the match award.
India next play Bangladesh in Bangalore on Wednesday, while Pakistan head to Mohali to meet New Zealand on Tuesday.
Feature image source: AFP