Updated: September 24, 2018 10:21:10 am
What a difference a change of format and setting makes! Less than two weeks after suffering a 1-4 reversal in the Test series in England, India continue to make merry in familiar conditions in the Gulf.
On Sunday, they treated Pakistan as if the arch rivals were some cricketing minnow.
Apart from Shoaib Malik, none of the Pakistan batsmen could come to terms with a varied and potent Indian bowling attack, and while chasing a relatively modest target of 238, hundreds by openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma ensured the outcome was never in doubt. The amateurish manner in which Sarfraz Khan’s bowlers and fielders went about their business contributed to their debacle, but India seemed a class apart.
Whether it was the fast bowlers or spinners, they repeatedly fed Dhawan and Sharma with long hops, which were dispatched to the boundary and over it with regularity. And the less said about their catching, the better. The crushing victory ensured India booked a spot in Friday’s final ahead of their remaining Super Four match against Afghanistan. They can even afford to rest a few players from the intense Arabian heat. For Pakistan though, it was another humbling experience against their neighbours.
On the match eve, while talking to The Indian Express, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif had pointed towards the fact that India’s recent dominance over Pakistan in white-ball cricket – they play limited-overs cricket only these days in multi-team events – has had been a success story of the Indian bowlers. “People talk about India’s batting. Of course they have a very good batting line-up. But of late, India’s bowlers have won the matches for them against Pakistan,” Latif had said.
Starting from the 2015 World Cup in Australia to the Asia Cup Super Four clash at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday, India have restricted Pakistan inside 250 (in 50-over format) four times. The only occasion, when Pakistan went beyond it, in the Champions Trophy final last year, they won the match and the trophy.
Four days ago, in the group league fixture between the arch-rivals here, India and bundled out Pakistan for 162. Today, after winning the toss and electing to bat on a batting-friendly surface, Pakistan had threatened to go past the 250 mark. Jasprit Bumrah was the reason they couldn’t do it. They finished at just 237/7 in 50 overs.
Bumrah returned with 2/29 from 10 overs, displaying a sensational spell of fast bowling; death bowling to be precise. He was vilified after the Champions Trophy final for giving Fakhar Zaman a no-ball reprieve early in his inning, as the Pakistan opener went on to score a match-winning hundred. This game witnessed Bumrah’s redemption.
A 107-run fourth wicket partnership between Sarfraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik had pulled things back for Pakistan after they lost three early wickets. Kuldeep Yadav gave India the breakthrough by dismissing Sarfraz. But Malik was there, carrying forward his match-winning form against Afghanistan. From India’s perspective, his scalp was important. Bumrah took care of the veteran. It was a length ball, angling down the leg. Malik tried to glance it down to fine leg, but could only manage a thin edge to MS Dhoni behind the stumps. Malik was beaten for pace. His departure reduced Pakistan to 203/5 in the 44th over. The game still hung in the balance. A 250-plus score was still very much on the cards. A couple of big overs at the death would have made India’s task a lot tougher. Pakistan scored only 32 runs in their last six overs. Bumrah bowled three of those overs, giving away just 10 runs and accounting for two more wickets. The fast bowler fired yorkers for fun, every time going over 140kph. A toe-crusher to Shadab Khan had been kept out at the last moment. Khan tried to go deep into the crease to neutralise the threat. Bumrah’s yorkers still chased him. And when Bumrah altered his length, Khan attempted a wild heave, deflecting the delivery onto the stumps in the process.
Back in the 1980s and ‘90s, when India and Pakistan used to play regularly in this part of the world, at Sharjah, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis enjoyed a copyright on the toe-crushers. India barely had any fast-bowling wherewithal then. No wonder that Sharjah had become haar-ja to the Indian fans. There’s a role reversal now. On a pitch, where Mohammad Amir conceded over eight runs per over, and Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan schooled Pakistan bowling, Bumrah and company produced a match-winning performance.
Spare a thought for the two wrist-spinners also – Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal. Chahal made early inroads by trapping Imam-ul-Haq leg before. Rohit made a very smart and successful call for a review. Yadav dismissed Zaman, when the latter was in the process of shifting the gear. The left-hander lost his balance, as he attempted a sweep. He was adjudged leg before and the batsman missed a trick by not going for a review. Replays showed he had a glove on the ball. Yadav removed Sarfraz also, when he was looking dangerous. India desperately needed to break the partnership.
Asif Ali tried to take the attack to the opposition, hitting a four and a couple of sixes. Chahal stopped him in his tracks. The leggie had been bowling in the slog overs, when the third Powerplay was on and only three fielders stood outside the ring. But Chahal bowled a flattish googly that cramped Ali for room and flattened the middle stump.
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