As it turned out, this proved to be a crazy contest between India’s medium fast bowlers versus Pakistan’s serious pace, where the most accomplished batsman on the field proved to be the difference between the two sides. Without Virat Kohli’s presence in the middle, India might have struggled to reach a victory target of 84; Mohammad Amir had been that devastating up front. But Kohli was a picture of composure on a Sher-e-Bangla Stadium pitch that provided enough assistance to the quicks.
Indian openers, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, found it difficult to put bat on ball. Rohit was lucky not to be given out leg before in the very fast delivery during the chase, but the next one from Amir, pitching on a good length and breaking back, was even better. This time the opener didn’t have a chance.
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WATCH: Kohli, Pandya star in India’s five-wicket win (App users click here)
Rahane was done in by another inswinger that came in very late. It was almost an unplayable delivery with a left-arm fast bowler bowling over the wicket. The natural angle was taking the ball away from the right-hander. Suresh Raina looked jittery against pace, bounce and movement. The uncertainties resulted into a poor shot selection as he tried to hit across the line to an outswinger. Amir had his third wicket and India were 8/3 after 2.4 overs.
PHOTOS: Kohli calm after Amir storm
In a way it was an opportunity for Yuvraj Singh to get into the groove. He rode his luck, played and missed but managed to hang on. Then a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket did the job. Though Kohli was unlucky to be given out leg before on 49, a big inside edge notwithstanding and Hardik Pandya departed next ball, the game was all but over.
In fact, it was one of those nights when MS Dhoni’s every move in the field looked like a masterstroke after he won the toss and decided to bowl. He wanted to set up Shoaib Malik against Hardik Pandya’s bowling and the plan worked. He brought Yuvraj into the attack ahead of R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and the part-time left-arm spinner dismissed the dangerous Umar Akmal with his first ball. The skipper pushed Raina to deep square and in the next delivery Mohammad Sami’s hit found him in that position. The ploys came off but India had earned the upper hand through excellent bowling and fielding.
Early strikes rattle Pakistan
By the time Pandya came on to bowl, Pakistan were 32/3. But it was imperative to keep the pressure with Akmal and Malik in the crease. The former was fresh from his 335 runs in the recently-concluded Pakistan Super League, while Malik had been carrying a truckload of experience with him. After bowling four deliveries into the right-hander, Pandya bowled an away-goer to Malik, apparently under his captain’s instruction, in the final ball of the over. Malik nicked it to Dhoni. Then, Yuvraj came and made his fast ball skid off the surface to get rid of Akmal. The batsman played for turn and was caught dead in front. Dhoni read it right, on a pitch like this and with a newish ball; a part-timer was more likely to create confusion.
In the final ball of that over, Shahid Afridi was run out, going for a second. The Pakistan captain picked the wrong fielder and Jadeja’s throw from deep backward square came like a bullet. Dhoni completed the formality as Afridi’s full-length dive went in vain. Another brilliant piece of fielding from Kohli earlier in the innings accounted for Khurram Manzoor with the Pakistan No. 3 dropping his bat and falling short of his ground after a horrible mix-up with Malik. Manzoor had survived a caught behind appeal off Ashish Nehra just eight balls previously. Umpire Sharfuddoula failed to pick the bottom edge and the Indian players were stunned. Dhoni usually takes bad decisions in his stride but here he had a word with the umpire. Later, at the press conference, he raised the issue of umpires wearing earpieces and hampering their audibility in the process.
He also explained why Yuvraj was given a bowl ahead of the regular spinners. The strategic part of it Dhoni didn’t elaborate, but said that he didn’t want to have a situation like the last game, where Jadeja had to bowl the 18th and 20th over. Overall, it was a happy outing to him and his team. Pandya’s bowling, 3/8 in 3.3 overs, was a real positive along with Yuvraj’s overall contribution. Batting-wise, apart from a couple of fours, he didn’t look in his element. But resolve was the need of the hour and the senior batsman showed enough doggedness to defy the opposition.
REACTIONS: How Twitter reacted to India’s win