Pacers steal win for India

In a choke for ages, Pakistan manage to lose against India by 6 runs from a winning position.
Indian players celebrate the dismissal of Pakistans Usman Khan during the ICC Mens T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York.
Indian players celebrate the dismissal of Pakistans Usman Khan during the ICC Mens T20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York.Photo | AP

CHENNAI: It was the 14th over of the chase at the Nassau County Cricket Stadium. After dismissing India for 119, Pakistan had more or less cantered to 80/3.

Mohammad Rizwan was there in the middle, batting on 31 from 43 balls. It was his job to hold one end while others were tasked with chasing down a run-a-ball target on a sluggish surface. Not just Rizwan, even Pakistan had done everything right up until that point.

Babar Azam won the toss and opted to field. Despite two rain interruptions, Pakistan pacers made early inroads. First, Naseem Shah got rid of Virat Kohli, who tried to hit a short delivery that held a little only to find the point fielder. India captain Rohit Sharma, who hit Shaheen Shah Afridi for a six in the first over, tried to repeat it in the third, but the ball held a little, leaving the India captain’s weight on the front foot. The result? An easy catch at square leg. Two early wickets and Pakistan were on top. At least for a brief while. India had promoted Axar Patel to plug the collapse but at the same time to keep the intent going. Axar was at the non-striker’s end as Pant was getting ready to take on Mohammed Amir in his second over. If there was a moment to double down, this was it.

First ball from Amir, an edge that flew past the slip fielder to the boundary. Second ball, Pant tried to whip the pacer, another leading edge, this time ball flew over the off-side. Third ball, an inside edge, which almost hit the stumps. Two balls later, another outside edge off Pant which flew for four. An over where Amir could have had three wickets at least, he ended up going for 12 runs. At the end of the powerplay, the Men In Blue had 50 on the board.

That over from Amir, in essence, summed up the kind of tricks the pitch was playing. It was going to be a contest of application between India and Pakistan. Axar, Shivam Dube, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya followed a pattern — they tried to take on Pakistan pacers, who were making the most of the conditions. Their bowlers were making all the play and promptly kept picking up wickets. India were dismissed for 119 in 19 overs.

All Pakistan now had to do was not repeat the mistakes of India while ensuring that they do not go into a shell. And that is what Rizwan had tried to do. Rizwan had negated Jasprit Bumrah early on, even picking up occasional boundaries apart from running well between the wickets. The others, however, had been coming and going. Azam fell to a sharp catch at slips off Bumrah, Usman Khan to an arm ball from Axar Patel and Zaman jumping down the track, trying to take on Hardik Pandya. It was down to Rizwan to take Pakistan home.

But there was one problem. Bumrah. He was always going to be the biggest threat. Both of them have been here before. In Ahmedabad. That time, Bumrah had the last laugh. And once again, Rizwan was up against Bumrah in his third over. Bumrah ran in, delivered a full delivery that pitched on line with off-stump, held its line, cutting Rizwan, who was trying to swipe across. It disturbed the stumps. Big wicket in the bag. India back in the game.

Now, it was a matter of mind and holding their nerves. Axar and Pandya did just that as Shadab Khan fell. Panic started to creep in. Imad struggled to put bat on ball and so did Iftikhar Ahmed. So much so that they were missing full tosses and half-volleys. The equation became 21 runs from 12 balls. And Bumrah came back to get rid of Iftikhar. Arshdeep followed him by removing Imad and that was that. Done and dusted. Despite doing everything right and being in control of the proceeding, Pakistan once again found themselves at the wrong side of the result.

Brief scores: India 119 in 19 overs (Pant 42; Naseem 3/21) bt Pakistan 113/7 in 20 overs (Rizwan 31; Bumrah 3/14).

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