Hardik seals it with a six, India beat Pakistan in Asia Cup

Hardik Pandya knows he is a cool cat. At times, he lets people know it too. He hit the match-winning six, accepted a bow from Dinesh Karthik, looked up at the dressing room and signalled a ‘telephone ring’ kind of wiggle. The same wiggle that Shahnawaz Dahani does after taking wickets though perhaps there was no connection between the two here. As it would happen, Dhani was one of the first player he would bump into after that celebration, and there ensued a sweet moment between the two. Smiles and animated happy faces.

But the coolest moment happened after the third ball of the final over. He had just moved outside leg stump and tried to smash it through the off side but couldn’t beat the infield. He then looked across at Karthik, shut his eyes and nodded his head – the Indian way to say ‘ all is well, hum hain na, it’s all cool, nothing to fret’.

And next ball he smashed the orb over the wide long-on boundary. Ravindra Jadeja, who played a screamer of a knock, also raved about Pandya. “He was very clear when he came to bat. He said, I will play my shots no matter what.”

Rohit’s travails

Coming to India’s other batters, amid the hullabaloo over Virat Kohli’s elongated lean patch, Rohit Sharma’s poor form has slipped under the radar a bit. The India captain had a laboured stay in the middle today. Rohit got stuck, had a few close shaves against Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf, attempted an ungainly heave against Shahnawaz Dahani and mistimed a whack off Mohammad Nawaz on the leg-side that landed between two fielders in the deep. He was on six off 15 balls, when the release shot came – a six over long-on against Nawaz. It proved to be a false dawn, as Rohit departed a couple of balls later, falling prey to a miscued lofted drive against the left-arm spinner. The opener made 12 off 18 balls. He has now scored just two half-centuries in his last 11 international innings.

India’s captain Rohit Sharma reacts as he walks off the field after losing his wicket during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Aug. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Bhuvi, the Coolest One

High pressure India-Pakistan games can make one a nervous wreck. That assumption isn’t true for Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He has been there, he has seen it all. A decade back he made his debut against Pakistan in ODIs. It was a series where he made a habit of taking early wickets. Bhuvi was so good with the new ball that Dhoni, at times, would give him 8 to 9 overs at a stretch. In T20I debut too had the same opponent – Pakistan. Now, 32 he is the Special One, make it Coolest One. Known for his swing, he changed plans today. He got Babar with the one that climbed on him and he mishit a pull.

Short is sweet for India

In an India-Pakistan encounter, if a pace bowler makes an impact, conventional wisdom would suggest it would be through toe-crushing yorkers or lateral movement testing both edges of the bat.

Short-pitched stuff isn’t the vocabulary often used in these contests, especially in matches played in Asia. But even an Indian bowling line-up missing Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami was too hot to handle for the Pakistan batsmen. Avesh Khan is known to be nippy, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar and rookie Arshdeep Singh are not considered the quickest. However, all of them found considerable success by digging the ball into a surprisingly-responsive Dubai pitch.

One wonders whether it exposed a technical deficiency in the Pakistan batsmen, known more for their cavalier approach in the format, or they simply didn’t expect such a mode of attack. Their horizontal-bat shots betrayed a sense of desperation as if balls zoning in on the helmet or the ribs are not supposed to be part of the T20 syllabus. The hooks, pulls and cuts attempted rarely came off and they seemed confused when the ball was aimed at their bodies.

There were acclaimed tweakers in Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal in the side, but it were the pacers that did all the damage. The left-arm spinner got one to grip the surface, turn and bounce alarmingly, but the leggie was the one Pakistan tried to target when he gave the ball some air.

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