DUBAI: It’s been 10 months since Shaheen Afridi’s memorable spell of pace and swing dismantled India’s batting in a T20 World Cup game here at the Dubai International stadium. The Indian pace attack literally and figuratively bounced back on Sunday evening to bowl out Pakistan for 147 as the Indian batters scrambled to a thrilling five-wicket win with two balls to spare in the opening match of the Asia Cup.
Led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, Indian pacers dished out short-pitch stuff right through the innings as first five Pakistan wickets fell to deliveries climbing to the shoulders of the Pakistani batters. Bhuvneshwar’s 4/26 and Hardik’s 3/25 gave Indian batters a relatively modest target to go one-up over Pakistan in this tournament. It came down to Hardik to finish off the messed-up chase with an unbeaten 17-ball 33. As Hardik finished the match with a six off left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, he again showed why he becomes an indispensable part of the team when he is bowling at full tilt.
All of that nearly came to a naught when the Indian top order of KL Rahul (0), Rohit Sharma (12 off 18) and Virat Kohli (35 off 34) once again looked out of place against quality pace as it did on that night last October. The conservative batting, which has been a bane for India’s T20 fortunes in big matches, resurfaced as 19-year-old Naseem Shah (2/27), in place of Afridi, sent shockwaves in the Indian dressing room with some thunderbolts right up front dismissing Rahul in the first over while having Kohli dropped on naught off the first ball.
Kohli and Rohit looked scrappy in their stay before being holed out at long-off off Nawaz (3/33). Ravindra Jadeja, sent out to bat at No. 4 in the absence of Rishabh Pant, labored to a 29-ball 35. But it was his 29-ball 42-run partnership with Hardik coupled with Pakistan’s wayward bowling and slow over-rate (resulting in Pakistan having to have five fielders inside the circle in the last three overs) that saved the day for India.
The memories of openers Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan running the Indian attack ragged in that same match too couldn’t be discounted when Sharma won the toss and sent Pakistan in to bat.
Here’s the thing about the conditions in Dubai. Till the time Pakistan played their home international games here before the pandemic struck, the pitches played slow and mostly sluggish in nature.
This set of Indian bowlers—Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh alongside Bhuvneshwar and Pandya—have played bulk of their cricket since the pandemic here in UAE. Two IPLs and a T20 World Cup behind it, the Dubai pitch has consistently sported a considerable amount of green and offered more pace and bounce.
Contrary to popular belief, Dubai is more like home conditions for Indian pacers. The hard length across the two IPLs have become the in-thing. Bhuvneshwar, admired for his movement through the air, caught the Pakistan batters guessing when he decided to pull his length back right from the word go.
Pakistan skipper Babar got into a tangle in the third over of the match as a top-edged hook lobbed to Arshdeep at short fine-leg. Once the quality of Babar was tamed for just 10, it set the tone for the Indian pacers. The big square boundaries made it difficult for Pakistan to find the boundary with as much regularity as modern-day T20 cricket demands. They were literally choked by a barrage balls aimed at their throat.
The fielders sweeping the boundary on either side of the pitch were kept in business and the overall agility of the Indian fielders frustrated the Pakistan batters further.
Rizwan, forever waiting to pounce on something closer to the full length, was tied to his backfoot and labored to a 42-ball 43 before guiding Hardik’s bouncer to the waiting hands of Avesh at third-man.
He has developed a thick skin and has focused on bowling a barrage of bouncers challenging the opposition batters to clear the square boundaries. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja too bowled restrictive lengths keeping the straight boundaries out of play as much as possible.
A couple of lusty blows in the last over by No. 11 Shahnwaz Dahani, who smacked 16 off six balls before Arshdeep decided to hit the block hole and hit his timber, offered the young Pakistan attack some room to challenge the Indian batting.

Source link