A brilliant innings from Indian test captain Virat Kohli meant that Pakistan suffered their 11 successive loss to their neighbours as India won this derby easily in the end by six wickets. Pakistan and India, who definitely don’t need a world cup tournament to add to the drama of their matches, came into this game with contrasting results.
Word cup hosts India who have been seen as favourites to lift the world cup (the Asian Sunday sports desk included!), actually lost their first game to world cup finalists New Zealand.
Rivals Pakistan on the other hand, confidently dispatched of another local rival in Bangladesh. Much was made of the conditions beforehand, due to the fact that the match had a delayed start to rain. As a consequence of the delay, the match itself had to be consequently reduced to an 18 overs a side match. With the weather seen as a potential deciding factor of the match, winning the toss and make the right call had more significance and importance placed on it.
Crucially it was India who won the toss, the 2007 winners decided they want to bowl first. The Indian team was unchanged and that meant that India had, at least, three spin options. On a pitch that was slow and unpredictable as this one, a decision to keep the same team by home captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni seemed like a master stroke.
In contrast visiting captain Shahid Afridi’s Pakistan side showed one change, that change much to the surprise of observers was the omission from the starting line-up of spinner Imad Wasim.
Pakistan opted to play an extra pacer in Mohammed Sami, which arguably cost them the game. As for the match itself, it was becoming evidently clear that scoring on this track isn’t going to be easy.
The start Pakistan made was further evidence of that as both openers Ahmed Shahzad and Sharjeel Khan, on the whole, struggled against the variations of Indian spinner Ravi Ashwin. When opener Sharjeel was put out of his misery after really struggling against the Indian attack, his dismissal prompted skipper Shahid Afridi to promote himself up the batting order.
A brave choice and an admirable one, one might think, but just like his fellow colleagues, Afridi struggled as the skipper and Shehzad both fell in quick succession with a low score on the board.
There was, at least, some resistance from Pakistan in the form of middle-order duo Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal. Together Malik and Akmal put on 41 for the fourth wicket, both players showed the fluency that sadly the rest of their teammates couldn’t.
That’s not to take anything away from India, throughout the Pakistan innings they were brilliant, to sum it up Jasprit Bumrah only conceded seven off the last over, which was a good effort in itself.
As good as the Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal partnership was, neither could bat until the end as a consequence of that Pakistan finished on a below par score of 118-5. From the outset that score looked at least 15-20 runs short, yes it was a tricky pitch and yes India did stutter when chasing a similar score in the first game.
This game though was a different kettle of fish, as unlike New Zealand, Pakistan were evidently carrying a spinner light. One can look at the India innings as evidence to see the havoc that India’s spinners were causing.
Knowing they needed a good start defending such a low total, Pakistan came out of the blocks firing. In fact, India were really wobbling at one stage as Mohammed Amir and Mohammed Sami were threatening to rip through the reliable Indian middle order.
India’s scorecard read 23-3 and it was really ‘anyone’s game’, but cometh the hour cometh the man. That man for India was yet again Virat Kohli, the 25-year old from Delhi yet again showed disregard for what was a difficult pitch to score and effortlessly took the game away from India’s old enemy.
Kohli and Yuvraj Singh crucially put on 61 for the fourth wicket, which effectively took the game away from the men in green. Unfortunately, Singh wasn’t able to stay there till the end, the 33-year old holed out to Mohammed Sami off the bowling of Wahab Riaz.
That potentially did offer a route back into the game for Pakistan, but when Virat Kohli is at the crease and in the form he was in, let’s be honest this match was realistically going to end in an Indian win.
An Indian win it was as Mahendra Singh Dhoni, just for politeness, hit his customary monster six towards the end of a run chase. India thanks to Virat’s brilliant 55 off 37 balls win this one and considering how tough this pitch was, one can’t emphasise the importance of such a knock.
The win for India reignites their world cup campaign, as for Pakistan they remain second in the table. If the 2009 winners Pakistan were hoping for the chance to get back to winning ways, then it’s fair to say that they could have their work cut out.
Pakistan face New Zealand on Tuesday 22nd March. As for India, they have a tricky game, but a definitely winnable game against Bangladesh. If this world cup is anything to go by, more drama awaits.