Indian team avenged their last year’s defeat against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup by edging their arch-rivals by five wickets on Sunday in the second match of the Asia Cup. India chased down the target of 148 in 19.4 overs to clinch a five-wicket victory in a humdinger. The New Indian looks at five factors which turned the tide in India’s favour:
1) The ‘bounce’ factor: The pitch had a bit of zing for bowlers as the new ball was jagging around and there was a fair amount of bounce for seamers. Indian seamers adroitly exploited the surface and troubled Pakistani batsmen with a plethora of short balls. All the first five wickets of Pakistan’s innings fell on short balls.
The first batsman to perish was Pakistani captain Babar Azam, who was outfoxed by a deceptive bouncer by seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar and was caught at short fine-leg in the 3rd over. Fakhar Zaman was caught behind in the 6th over as he jabbed at the short ball outside the off-stump by Avesh Khan but got a faint edge. Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan and Khushdil were also undone by bouncers.
2) Fakhar Zaman does ‘Adam Gilchrist’: After Babar’s dismissal, the left-hander Zaman – known for his explosive stroke-play – came to the crease and biffed a couple of boundaries. He was looking in fine touch before he tried to cart away Avesh Khan in the sixth over but the faint tickle carried to the wicket-keeper.
The edge was so thin that neither the keeper nor the bowler went up in fervent appeals. Even the umpire was unsure until Zaman decided to walk on his own and effectively declared himself out. His wicket was extremely critical, especially because he was looking in good rhythm. His act of walking didn’t amuse his teammates, as captain Babar seemed quite bewildered by his decision.
Adam Gilchrist, much to the consternation of his then captain Ricky Ponting, had similarly walked off in the semi-final of the World Cup 2003 against Sri Lanka.
3) The ‘versatile’ Bhuvi: Bhuvneshwar Kumar has proved his mettle in the T20 format a number of times over the years and on Sunday he once again demonstrated why he’s held in such high esteem. He got the new ball to dart around prodigiously and troubled the Pakistani openers. His deceptive bouncer got the better of Pakistan’s best batter, Azam, and gave India their first wicket.
In his second spell, he nipped out the dangerous Asif Ali with a fine leg-cutter and then dismissed Shadab Khan and Naseem Shah on consecutive deliveries. He varied his pace and length wisely and snapped up four wickets for just 26 runs in 4 overs.
4) The rise of Hardik Pandya: 2022 has been the annus mirabilis for Hardik Pandya. Since the Indian Premier League (IPL), the dashing all-rounder has pitched in spectacular performances both with bat and ball in a slew of matches. The all-rounder bowled with bouncing vigour and demonic precision to prise out three Pakistani batsmen. The 15th over of Pakistan’s innings, in which he snuffed out Rizwan and Khushdil, was arguably one of the most important moments of the match.
Later, he reeled off an unbeaten 33 off 17 balls under pressure to see India home. The match was evenly poised when he came to the crease in the 15th over, with India in a spot of bother at 89-4. But the in-form Pandya looked unruffled by the tense situation. In the 19th over, he smacked three boundaries off Haris Rauf and significantly eased the pressure. India needed 7 runs in the last over but the left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz cleaned up Jadeja for 35 as the left-hander attempted an ambitious heave.
But Pandya held his nerves and smoked Nawaz nonchalantly for a six over deep mid-wicket on the fourth ball to seal the match for India.
5) Slow over-rate and cramps: Defending 147, Pakistan’s bowlers did a fair job till the first 16 overs as they made Indian batsmen scrounge desperately for runs. The debutants, Naseem Shah and spinner Nawaz, were especially impressive. Shah castled KL Rahul in the first over to give Pakistan a terrific start and later bowled Suryakumar Yadav. His booming in-dippers were proving disconcerting for Indian batters. Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani also bowled with visible energy.
But due to the slow over-rate, Pakistan had to keep at least five fielders inside the circle from the 17th over onwards, which made things difficult for bowlers. To make matters worse, both Rauf and Shah began to grapple with painful cramps and couldn’t bowl their last overs at full tilt. As a result, they conceded a few wide balls, which benefited India.