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Hafeez, Malik steer Pakistan to victory

853   //    26 Dec 2012, 16:15 IST

It seems that the sporting gods up there have decided that whenever these 2 teams will meet, the matches will be filled with those tense moments which will inculcate the habit of nail biting in viewers no matter how much they resist. The 1st T20 of the series was another such match. It was a great game to watch, although being an avid fan of Indian cricket, disappointment will persist for some time. Let’s analyze the match situation and find out where things went wrong.

The Indian innings began on a positive note, with both Rahane and Gambhir showing a great deal of maturity. They resisted themselves from any kind of temptation and played each ball on its merit. The scoreboard at the end of 10 overs read: 75/0. With a run-rate of 7.5 and 10 wickets in hand (not to forget the batting line-up this team possesses), a score of 160+ was surely on the cards.

But things went horribly wrong. Once Rahane was caught trying to loft a full length delivery from Afridi over extra cover, the tides of fortune started flowing in Pakistan’s favor. Gambhir’s needless second run in the 13th over was something that hurt the team badly, since he was now a set batsman and could have easily played a supporting role to Kohli. With Yuvraj smashing Afridi over deep midwicket for a huge six (91 meters), it seemed as if vintage Yuvraj was back.

But alas, the joy of seeing Yuvi smashing Afridi was ephemeral as he mistimed a pull of Gul’s off cutter and was caught by Umar Akmal. On the other end, the fall of wickets continued with Dhoni, Raina and Rohit Sharma following in quick succession. It was disappointing to watch Kohli, who has been time and again compared to the great Sachin Tendulkar, looking helpless against Mohammad Irfan’s away going deliveries and finally falling victim to him. With Jadeja edging Gul’s bouncer to the ‘keeper, it was all but over for Team India. Certainly the fall of 7 wickets in 7 overs with the addition of just 50 runs is certainly not the way to go. At the end of this innings, the scoreboard read: 133/9 .

If India got off to a flyer and then lost their way, Pakistan’s innings was exactly the opposite. India’s pace bowlers got off to a dream start with Bhuvneshwar Kumar leading the way. It was pleasing to see him swing the ball both ways and it was all the more heartening to see 2 out of his 3 dismissals finding the gap between the batsman’s bat and pad. With Pakistan struggling at 12/3 at the end of 3 overs and India’s pace bowlers swinging the ball profusely (which would have made even Wasim Akram proud), one could sense the win coming.

But what hurt India’s cause during Pakistan’s innings was the inability of our spin bowlers to contain their batsmen. Too many balls were bowled on the shorter side and the early advantage was certainly killed. With the scoreboard reading 45/3 at the end of 10 overs, the situation was still in India’s favor. But Kohli’s over jolted India’s chances. He conceded 13 runs in the 11th over, which turned the tide in Pakistan’s favor.

With Kumar finishing his quota of overs, it was too much to ask from part timers to maintain the same kind of pressure which was done effortlessly by this young lad at the start. Moreover, with Yuvi failing to deliver, defeat seemed inevitable. Ma be Dhoni missed the trick by keeping Ashwin out of playing eleven. Certainly R Ashwin would serve as a better all-rounder than Jadeja. Even the late burst from Ishant Sharma, where he picked Hafeez with a bouncer outside off and his sledging with Kamran Akmal, was not good enough. It would have always been a huge gamble to give Jadeja the ultimate over given that 10 runs were required from six balls with their in-form batsman (Shoaib Malik) out there. But Dhoni was left with little choice as all his main bowlers finished their spells. As expected, mockery was made of the final over target and Pakistan triumphed with 2 balls remaining. Mohammad Hafeez was rightly given the Man of the match award.


Hafeez Malik steered Pakistan safely

Although this match was lost by Indian team, there were number of positives which emerged.

- It was heartening to see our fast bowlers giving a scare to the opposition, a sight so rarely seen in Indian cricket. Kumar’s bowling was simply exceptional and even Sunil Gavaskar said from the commentary box: “If he can swing a white bowl to this extent, imagine what he can do with the red one”. His bowling figures of 4-0-9-3 was a dream for any bowler to attain in T20. It would be too early to call him one of the best as his real test would come when he’ll bowl to batsmen of the class of Micheal Clarke, Kevin Peterson and Hashim Amla. But if given enough chances to prove himself, he, along with Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, can form a lethal fast bowling group in the years to come.

- It was pleasing to watch Ajinkya Rahane bat with such ease against the likes of Gul and Ajmal. The timing of the shots which he played over extra cover is the indication to the selectors that he can be tried in all formats. Although Ajmal was able to deceive Dhoni and Raina which resulted in below par score, it was a delight to watch India’s pace bowlers leading a dramatic fightback and taking the match to the last over, which frankly speaking, no optimistic Indian fan would have hoped for after the batting collapse.

Let’s hope things go in favour of India and we see some more intelligent swing bowling at Ahmedabad on 28th.

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