Asia Cup: Pakistan edge out India in a thrilling chase

5 min read
Pakistan edge out India in a thrilling

Pakistan edge out India in a thrilling

Rizwan, Nawaz help overhaul 181 with one ball to spare in Asia Cup.

The sign of a team that is still a study in progress and not one that is hurtling to invincibility.

Less than two months for the World Cup, India are still prone to bouts of cluelessness. Passages of the game wherein they look utterly stunned, bereft of answers, ideas and imagination. Like when Rizwan shifted through the gears. As dangerous a batsman as he is, they fed him with too many loose balls, which ensured that he could score freely without embracing risks. Yuzvendra Chahal provided him with plenty of width to cut. Hardik gifted him with length balls on the leg-side, which he routinely demolished. Even the usually precise Bhuvneshwar let him off to a smooth start. Arshdeep was easy fodder for him as he hefted him for a fierce six over square-leg. Every stroke to the boundary seemed like a slash on India’s belief. Inch by inch, they surrendered, much before they had lost, on the penultimate ball of the game.

His confidence restored after the Hong Kong game, Rizwan controlled the chase with the finesse and mastery of a conductor at the London Opera. He knew which shots to play, and which not to; when to play them and when not to. He ensured that Pakistan did not panic after they lost Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman. After the Hong Kong game, he had said: “We would look to be brave and calm.” And so they were.

Old frailties

Perhaps, Rizwan would have been impossible to stop in this rampaging form. But worryingly, India were clueless in dealing with the promoted Mohammad Nawaz. As the left-hander strode in, they seemed shocked. And when he began to unleash his artillery of strokes, India were not just caught off-guard, but seemed frightened, as though they did not have a plan for him. Nawaz comes with a reputation of clean hitting — in interviews he proudly talks of his batting, and to back his claims, he has a T20 strike rate of 124 and five half-centuries — and he enhanced his reputation with a torrent of boundaries in his 20-ball-42, which was as central to Pakistan’s victory as Rizwan’s 71.

“My batting is as important as bowling. I perhaps put more time on my batting than bowling,” he had once said.

There was a clarity in his hitting — it was not a blind, mad knock, but one where he leant on his percentage strokes. The swings were often down the line, and not across. The base was firm and the head usually still. “We needed 10 runs per over when I walked in to bat, so I knew I had to attack every chance I got. My mind was clear that I’d hit out at every ball in my zone. I didn’t try and overplay, which you sometimes can when you’re under pressure,” he said.

Perhaps, it was the possibility of facing two leg-spinners that encouraged his promotion. But he did not limit his destruction to the leg-spinners — he was especially brutal on Chahal, whom he carted for three fours — but extended the punishment to the seamers too. Hardik, the previous Sunday’s hero, was thundered over long-off, before he smashed him for two fours in three balls. The 63-run rummaging stand in 6.3 overs took the match inexorably beyond India’s grasp.

There was Nawaz to hurt India in every nook. He was Pakistan’s thriftiest bowler, conceding just 6.25 runs per over, pulling the plug on India’s pacy start, with a masterful control over his length. He prised out the precious wicket of Suryakumar Yadav before he swallowed Hardik at short third-man, lunging forward to grasp the ball that was dying in front of him. He then duly settled under Deepak Hooda’s skier too. Not surprisingly, he was adjudged Player of the Match.