On a hot and sultry evening in Dubai, Hardik Pandya kept his cool in tense moments to propel India to a five-wicket win over Pakistan in Asia Cup. The storied rivalry lived up to the hype, as the game swung between two extremes before Pandya took the sting out of the contest with his unrelenting blows.
He slammed 33 off just 17 deliveries as India chased down a par total of 148 with two balls to spare. With 21 needed off the last 12 balls, Pandya struck three boundaries against Haris Rauf before finishing the game with a mighty blow over long-on.
The batters struggled to assert their authority on a pitch that was conducive to pacers. The game was cracked open in India’s favour only after Pakistani pacers lost their zing in death overs. Both Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah struggled with cramp, and at one point it looked like they won’t be able to complete their remaining overs.
Naseem was barely able to walk in his final over, yet he continued to bowl, and nearly had the better of Ravindra Jadeja, only for the ball to pitch marginally outside the leg stump.
Another thing that worked in favour of the Indian side was the easing of field restriction due to the slow over rate. They had to pull back an extra fielder inside the 30-yard circle, which, in turn, opened up a new avenue of attack for both Pandya and Jadeja.
Pandya not only played a match-winning knock, but also put up a brilliant display with the ball to squeeze Pakistan’s innings in the middle overs. He was the most frugal bowler from the Indian side, and picked three crucial wickets. All his wickets came via short-pitched delivery — a tactic that worked wonders for the Indian attack.
Barring Mohammad Rizwan, who scraped off to a 42-ball 43, none of the batters looked at ease on the crease. While Pandya choked them in the middle overs, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh picked quick wickets to wrap up their innings in 19.5 overs.
With this victory, India redeemed themselves from the last year’s defeat in the T20I World Cup at the same venue. But there’s hope for Pakistan to pull one back against their arch-rival, as they are likely to play India again in the tournament.
HardikLead Image: BCCI/Twitter