A Mirpur anticlimax
Wherever India and Pakistan meet on a cricketing plane, it is considered as the mother of all battles. And it was no exception when the two bitter neighbours renewed their rivalry at the home of Bangladesh cricket in Mirpur last night.
A near-packed holiday crowd, thunderous roars from two distinctively divided sections and a world audience zoomed in through their TV sets -- a common phenomenon that has made this battle so special.
But Saturday night will go down as a mismatch and an utter disappointment for the paying public in the annals of the rivalry. India won the game by five wickets with 27 balls to spare.
There was however a glimpse of that unpredictability that has been associated with a match involving the two teams when India came out to chase an easy target of 84 runs and immediately got caught by one Mohammad Amir storm.
The Pakistan left-arm pacer, bowling perhaps the best six deliveries -- discounting that wide -- a T20 match has ever witnessed, had Rohit Sharma trapped in front with the second ball with a fast and furious off-stump inswinger. Sharma was lucky not to get out in the first ball, a similar delivery that failed to convince the Sri Lankan umpire.
He repeated the magic in the fourth ball of the over and dismissed a clueless Ajinkya Rahane in similar fashion.
With a raucous crowd backing him up, Amir steamed in for his next over and dispatched Suresh Raina, this time with a well-disguised slower delivery that the batsman looped to mid-on.
But apart from Amir's brilliant spell, Pakistan's bowling did not have much to show for as Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh slowly but steadily took India close to victory with a 68-run stand for the fourth wicket.
Kohli scored a 51-ball 49 which included seven fours while Yuvraj stayed their till the end with 14 off 32 balls to take India home.
However, the match as a contest was all but over when Pakistan, sent in to bat, lost six of their frontline batsmen for 42 runs against a bowling attack tipped as the weak link of the two battling teams. Pakistan eventually limped to 83 all out in 17.3 overs.
When Mohammad Hafeez hit the second ball of the game, a full-length delivery from Ashish Nehra, between point and cover for four, the audience thought a cracker of a contest was on. But the Professor, unwilling to accept the ground reality that it was not a typical sub-continental wicket, paid the penalty of slashing at a delivery that bounced a bit more and Indian captain Mahendra Singh did the rest behind the wicket. It started a procession that never stopped, with Sharjeel Khan committing the same crime against Jasprit Bumrah, the better of the two Indian pace bowlers operating with the new ball.
It then turned into a case of coming in to bowl and picking up a wicket for the rest of the Indian bowling attack. Three run-outs, all as good as the other one, summed up India's complete dominance over a Pakistan batting line-up that definitely looked out of depth in terms of quality.
If luck had something to do with the game, then it also did not help Pakistan's cause. Shoaib Malik hit the best shot of the innings, if not the best of the game, a straight drive against Bumrah. But it counted for nothing as the ball struck the middle stump at the non-striker's end. The next ball produced the best fielding effort from India's best fielder Kohli that saw a tumbling Khurram Manzoor stranded halfway down the pitch.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi also became a run-out victim much to the disappointment of his fans, who were anticipating something special from the hardest hitter of the ball.
Sarfaraz Ahmed with 25 was Pakistan's top-scorer and Khurram, who scored 10, was the other batsman to have reached double figures, while Mr Sundries was the second highest with 15.
Hardik Pandya, whose all-round ability was on show against Bangladesh in the opening match, was the best bowler for India with figures of 3 for eight in 3.3 overs. Bumrah also bowled brilliantly to finish with 1-8. His two maidens at the start of the innings were testament to a mature head on very young shoulders.
With two wins from as many games India are now in pole position to make it to the March 6 final, leaving their bitter rivals with much to do against holders Sri Lankan and hosts Bangladesh in their next games.