Like all the India vs Pakistan ties,this one was also much anticipated, more so because of India’s spectacular win against them in the Asia cup. The only practice game to be telecast, this match caught the attention of one and all. The conditions were hot and humid. The match began with India winning the toss and choosing to bat first on a typical Sri Lankan wicket which tends to be a bit slow and aids the spinners more than the fast bowlers.
Sehwag and Gambhir opened the innings for India. They got off to a good start, putting up 41 runs. Sehwag was in his own elements, thrashing the bowlers for some quick runs. He made a quickfire 24 and Gambhir made 10. Both of them fell in quick succession and in came Kohli and Rohit. They steadied the ship after the loss of those two wickets. Kohli took the attack back to the opposition while Sharma was content playing second fiddle to him. But once both of them had got settled, they unleashed a flurry of boundaries, bringing up the scoring rate. Both of them matched each other shot for shot and brought up their century partnership in the 16th over. They were particularly severe on Mohammed Sami and Shahid Afridi, who were taken to the cleaners. India were looking at a score above 200 when Saeed Ajmal came in and picked up the wicket of Rohit Sharma for a well made 50. India were 176/3 at the end of the 19th over. Yuvraj Singh came in and made sure that India didn’t lose any more wickets, though he didn’t get as many runs as he would have wanted. India finished with 185/3 with Kohli remaining not out on a well compiled 75.
India were looking favorites at this stage. But the Pakistan had other ideas. Imran Nazir launched a counter attack, when he took apart Irfan Pathan for 17 runs in his very first over. More thrashing followed in the next over when Zaheer went for 10 runs. Ashwin was brought in to stop the massacre and he immediately responded with the wicket of a well-set Imran Nazir. More trouble followed for the Pakistanis when they lost Nasir Jamshed, thanks to Dhoni’s brilliant sense of mind when he got the batsman runout.
Things were looking downhill when they lost 3 more wickets in quick succession, all to R. Ashwin, the birthday boy. Shahid Afridi went without troubling the scorers, Hafeez and U.Akmal too went without adding much to the score board. They had lost 3 wickets in 7 balls for just 7 runs. Kamran Akmal was batting brilliantly at one end to keep the momentum going. In came Shoaib Malik at number 7. Both of them immediately started to repair the chase by playing with caution, yet managing to keep afloat with the run rate. They set themselves up nicely and started knocking off runs at a quick rate. They demolished the Indian bowling, with Ashwin being the only exception. Ashwin finished with 4-23. Harbhajan, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Pathan and Balaji were all poor with their line and lengths, which the Pakistanis capitalized on and took them apart. All these bowlers gave away more than 10 runs per over.
But one can’t take the credit away from Kamran Akmal who batted beautifully, ably supported by Shoaib Malik. Kamran was playing well all around the ground, playing some beautiful lofted shots. He played the cut and pull with equal efficiency. Shoaib played some lovely strokes down the ground to take the total closer. Only 6 runs were needed from the last over. And Kamran Akmal brought it up in the very first ball of the last over when he launched Irfan for a six over the cover boundary. Kamran finished with 92 n.o. and Malik with 37 from just 18.
Hats off to Kamran and Malik for their splendid efforts, aided by some poor bowling from the Indians. All in all, it was an exciting finish and both teams can take positives out of this game going into the tournament.
Pakistan: Mohammed Hafeez (C), Imran Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Mohammed Sami.