INDIA secured an impressive nine-wicket victory over fierce rivals Pakistan at the Oval in their final warm-up match for the ICC World Twenty20.
Pakistan posted 158 for six but India cruised home with 18 balls to spare thanks to openers Rohit Sharma (80) and Gautum Gambhir (52 not out).
Earlier, South Africa continued their positive build-up to the tournament with a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
And Scotland were beaten by the Netherlands by seven wickets.
A large, excitable Oval crowd were treated to a scintillating game of cricket, played out between rivals India and Pakistan.
Despite the early loss of Shazaib Hasan, Pakistan hammered the Indian bowlers for 45 in the first four overs thanks to 25 from Ahmed Shahzad and 19 from Kamran Akmal.
India hit back though with three wickets in five balls to temporarily halt the Pakistan momentum – the next boundary did not come for another 42 deliveries.
A partnership of 50 between Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus Khan steered Pakistan past the 100-mark before the latter was stumped by Mahendra Singh Dhoni off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh for 32.
A useful and unbeaten 25 was added by next man Yasir Arafat, with Misbah finishing on 37 not out as Pakistan posted 158 for six.
India’s run chase was measured but ruthless as openers Gambhir and Sharma efficiently took the game away from Pakistan.
Without ever resorting to unnecessarily forceful shot-playing the two moved along at roughly nine an over until their partnership was broken, nineteen runs short of victory when Sharma was caught by Shahzad off Mohammad Aamir for 80.
Dhoni joined Gambhir and the two saw India to a comfortable nine-wicket win with three overs remaining, the winning run coming courtesy of a wide.
Sri Lanka were unconvincing in Tuesday’s four-wicket victory over Bangladesh and were made to look distinctly ordinary at Lords by an excellent South Africa, who fully justified their tag as one of the favourites for the upcoming tournament.
Dale Steyn led the initial destruction of the Sri Lankan order, claiming two early wickets before Herschelle Gibbs ran out Jehan Mubarak to leave them in disarray at 16 for three.
Any momentum Sri Lanka hoped to build following these early blows were scuppered by the regular surrendering of wickets as they stumbled to 44 for seven; with only three boundaries in a score of 17 from Kumar Sangakkara worthy of note.
Late order runs, primarily from Angelo Mathews (28) and Nuwan Kulasekara (24 not out), enabled Sri Lanka to limp to 109 for nine.
The South African chase got off to a poor start with powerful duo Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis falling cheaply in the first two overs.
A B De Villiers, so impressive in the recently concluded IPL, steadied the ship along with Gibbs but with only two boundaries in the first ten overs their progress was steady at best.
When Sri Lanka did finally hold a catch – Lasith Malinga holding onto a lofted drive from De Villiers at long on off the bowling of Isuru Udana – it was too late to rescue the game.
Malinga bowled Gibbs two short of his half-century, before JP Duminy struck a boundary to seal a comfortable six-wicket victory.
The match attracted protests outside Lords regarding the Sri Lankan side’s participation in the tournament in light of events in the country, where intense fighting has been taking place between government forces and the Tamil Tigers.
“We are here for cricket, not politics. Cricket unifies all races and religions and we are a united team,” said Sri Lanka team manager Brendon Kuruppu.
At the Oval, Scotland made a bright start to their innings – they were 48 for one after seven overs – but were unable to maintain the momentum.
Kyle Coetzer looked in good form at the crease, making 39 from 28 balls, but struggled to find a good batting partner with Fraser Watts the only other man to make 20.
Netherlands’ opening bowler Dirk Nannes bowled 16 dot balls in his four overs, providing the platform for Edgar Schiferli (three for 33), Pieter Seelaar (three for 25) and Mudassar Bukhari (two for 27) to limit Scotland to 128 for nine.
After the early loss of Darren Reekers, Alexei Kervezee and Bas Zuiderent quickly regained the initiative for the Netherlands, bringing them to within 18 runs of victory with four overs remaining.
The wicket of Kervezee (for 62) followed quickly by Zuiderent (for 46), gave Scotland hope but Daan van Bunge struck a victory-sealing boundary with half an over to go.
“It can only be described as a lacklustre display,” said Scotland captain Gavin Hamilton. “The most disappointing point was that we made the same mistakes as yesterday.”
The Netherlands have called 17-year-old Tim Gruijters into their World Twenty20 squad as a replacement for Ruud Nijman, who suffered back and leg injuries during a previous warm-up game against Bangladesh. – BBC SPORT.