Yes it’s an Indo-Pak contest, yes we expect it to be exciting, yes it does go down to the wire, yes there is electric atmosphere in the stands, but this one in Mirpur was a bit too much even by those standards.
Pakistan, after getting off to an electric start, like always, blew it away. Our dear neighbours lost as many as three wickets in a hurry, and all of a sudden, found themselves in familiar territory. A 71-run opening stand, and the team, in no time, was reduced to 113/4.
It was then when the Professor – Mohammed Hafeez – dictated terms in the middle. Playing against his favourite opposition – he averages more than 45 against India – Hafeez was in complete command of the proceedings. Along with Sohaib Maqsood, he countered the Indian spinners, and seamers, with utmost ease.
And, then the Indo-Pak thing happened. After going wicketless for more than 20 overs, Indian bowlers took two in a hurry. In space of ten deliveries, Hafeez and Maqsood were both back in the hut.
What next? Or who next? Sahibzada Mohammad Shahid Khan Afridi. And, rest, they say, is history.
Surprised? A term not often associated with the aggressive right-hander, who has the reputation to throw away starts and matches, at will!
This time around, against the opposition which brings the best out of him, Afridi sealed the game. Coming into bat in a tense situation, Afridi had to play sensibly. Going after everything was not the need of the hour since the run-rate required was not out of reach. He did what the situation wanted him to do, and sealed the thrilling encounter in fitting fashion – with a six.
Team India’s eternal tourist finally got a game on Sunday. And, what a game it was. A must-win Asia Cup fixture against arch-rivals Pakistan and the task of bowling second with the dew.
Not the setting Mishra would have liked after warming the bench for so long.
Leg-spinners are a treat to watch. And the way Mishra bowled today, the treat turned out to be even more delicious. An easy run-up, simple pivot and a perfect release.
The pitch, which many termed as a flat deck, started behaving differently during Mishra’s spell. The odd one was gripping the surface, and the spinner was extracting a lot of side turn. His figures of 2/28 make a decent reading, but he bowled much better than that.
Captain, you beauty!
He didn’t score with the bat, but made his presence felt with the decisions on the field. Smartly rotating his bowlers, accurately placing the fields and making the right calls under pressure highlight captain Virat Kohli’s day in the office.
The Delhi dasher was thinking on his feet. He didn’t wait for an error, he forced one. Didn’t wait for an edge, created one. Didn’t wait for a collapse, triggered one.
Captaincy is not about the resources you field for the match, but the way you extract the most out of those resources. The way he used Mishra was a delight to watch. He gave the leg-spinner attacking fields – even two slips and silly point – on occasions and backed him to succeed, even under pressure.
Many would argue against certain calls he took. For starters, giving Bhuvi the 49th over.
But, it’s cricket and it’s a game of glorious uncertainties.