Kohli roars down Sixes, Arshdeep starts with stunners, Rohit’s face floods with emotions & Iftikhar defies age

Till the start of 19th over, India hadn’t hit a six against the formidable pacers. Against the best bowler on the day, Haris Rauf, it was unlikely that India would change that unusual trend. The first four balls didn’t even see a boundary and then on the final two balls, Virat Kohli smoked two sixes that will be talked about for ages. First was all the muscle he punched Rauf straight behind him next to the sidescreen; the next one was pure timing and class. He helped a ball on the legs over the fineleg boundary. In the next over, Kohli once again had to repeat the miracle. This time India needed 13 from 3 balls. Two more sixes India needed to win. Kohli was facing a spinner this time. It was the left-arm spinner Nawaz who had conceded three sixes in one over earlier in the spell. Kohli was up to it again, he hit a six. Luck too helped, it proved to be a no-ball. What followed was a bizarre sequence of events. Kohli got clean bowled on the free-hit ball but ran three. Dinesh Kartik got stumped when India needed 2 from 2. But on the final ball of the game, India needing 2 runs in 1 ball with Ashwin on strike, Nawaz bowled a side. With 1 from 1, Ashwin hit the ball over the in-field to win it for india.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Stifling start, stunning end?

Bhuvneshwar Kumar conceded just a wide in the first over, no run came off the bat. It was a virtual maiden. Is this rare for a big match? Well, for the record Zaheer Khan in the 2011 World Cup final sent down his first three overs as maidens and even got a wicket. India went on to win the game.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Bhuvi, the cool executioner

Talk about being cool and calm. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a sight to behold in the team huddle when India awaited the verdict from the TV umpire on Babar Azam’s lbw. As the big screen indicated that all was right – in line, no inside edge, and hitting stumps – with India’s appeal, Rohit Sharma screamed, and the zoom camera revealed the interiors of his well-cleaned mouth. So was Virat Kohli, screaming away. Standing next to them, eye on the screen, Kumar had a gentle smile. As if he had seen a toddler slapping ice cream all over the face.

Sriram Veera

Arshdeep swallows Rizwan whole

Just as he was about to release the ball, the left-handed seamer Arshdeep Singh’s mouth opened wide. It could well have been batsman Mohammad Rizwan’s reaction after what transpired once the ball reached the other end. It was the surprise bouncer. Rizwan was late on the pull and had to fetch it from outside off as well and unsurprisingly, the ball lobbed off the top edge to the fine-leg fielder. The open-mouth at release seemed like a sign in the hindsight – Mr Rizwan here I come to swallow you up.

Sriram Veera

Chandigarh lads chomping.. Since 1985

The last time India-Pakistan played at the sprawling MCG was in 1985. World Series, Channel 9, Audi, Gavaskar speech – Remember? There happens to be a mind-scrambling coincidence to that game and this one. Both times a Chandigarh pacer had got Pakistan batsmen out for a first ball duck with a full one. Quizzers will surely get this one, rest will scratch their heads. Back then it was Kuku Paaji – that’s what Kapil is still called at his home ground Sector 16 Stadium in Chandigarh – who sent back middle order batter Qasim Umar with a toe-crusher. It was what the commentators like calling the “unplayable ball”. The one that Chandigarh rookie Arshdeep Singh bowled today wasn’t of that quality but the fact that it was the first ball of his spell would get him extra marks. And Babar is a star of the team unlike Umar. Remember who Qasim Umar was? After his dismissal that day, using his bat as a gun, he was seen shooting those in the stands who were booing him. Later in life he would make headlines for being an Imran Khan baiter, coming out as a whistle blower who said his team mates hid cocaine in batting gloves and for being banned for match-fixing. These days he can be seen giving religious discourses on TV.

Sandeep Dwivedi

Roar roar roar your gloat as Babar goes

Everyone roared. The bowler, the captain, the ex-captain, the vice-captain and the multitudes in the gallery. As soon as the umpire lifted his index finger skywards, Arshdeep Sing, his pearler beating Babar Azam’s leg-side swipe and crashing onto his pads, et out a roar so loud that the veins on his neck seemed to burst. Virat Kohli came fiercely roaring and punching the air, almost pouncing on Arshdeep. The roars died out in the collective roar of nearly 80,000 pairs of vocal cords. Then it all paused abruptly when Babar sought a review. And a few seconds later, the roar resumed, a roar twice-fold in intensity that it could shake the foundations of the massive stadium. Even the usually restrained Rohit Sharma roared, his head swayed back and his arms spread. The moment was so enormous, setting the tone not only for the match as well as the tournament. And an orchestra of roars it was.

Sandip G

Kohli’s run out hiss miss

Just last week, Virat Kohli was brilliant in the field like only he can be. A sharp diving throw to dismiss Tim David while fielding in the inner circle and a one-handed pouch while stretched in the air at long on to acrobatically catch Pat Cummins at long-on during the warm-up game against Australia. Both were outstanding efforts from India’s best all-round fielder. Kohli was sharp when he aimed at a wicket and a half when running out David. On Sunday against Pakistan, Kohli missed from nearly point blank range. Shan Masood played towards mid off and scampered for a single. Kohli moved in, got to the ball and from just a few metres out decided to go for an underarm throw. Masood’s heart would have been in his mouth, given that he had misjudged the run and also the reputation of the fielder towards whom he hit the ball to. Unbelievably for Kohli, he missed. A couple of overs later, Kohli moved at lightning pace to try and get to a chip shot from Mohammad Rizwan, but the ball fell agonisingly short. Kohli gamely smiled. Even the best sometimes need a little luck to go their way.

Nihal Koshie

Jab, jab, jab, jab, jab,jab..KO

Memories of Shaheen Afridi’s first over against India at the last T20 World Cup would be fresh in fans’ minds, with the left-armer setting the tone of the contest early on. If Bhuvneshwar Kumar couldn’t do likewise opening the bowling for India at the MCG, he came close to repeating it on several occasions in the first six balls, with Mohammad Rizwan lucky to see through the over.

After letting the first one, outside off-stump, go through to the wicketkeeper, the Pakistan opener was rapped on the glove by one that reared up off a length, not something many expect from Kumar. Rizwan needed some treatment before he could continue.

The next ball moved just a shade away from the right-hander and Rizwan, looking to guide it for the first runs, was lucky not to nick it. The tentative batsman thought about a tight single next ball, but better sense prevailed.

Anxious that the early momentum was going India’s way, Rizwan tried an extravagant drive through the off-side next ball, failing to make contact. After a wide opened the Pakistan account, the last ball was inside-edged on to the pads. Kumar had done everything in the first over, except taking a wicket.
The wicket didn’t come in the first six legitimate balls, but came off the seventh when Arshdeep Singh, who was brutally vilified when these two sides met last, got one to curve deliciously into Babar Azam’s pads as the Pakistan skipper fell LBW first ball. The roar inside the packed G was spine-tingling. Arshdeep then got Rizwan on the hook, for good measure. A left-arm pacer was having an early impact, after all.

Tushar Bhaduri

Wish you were gone: Kohli’s runout blues & hues

Virat Kohli was sure, saying “Out hai!” as he congratulated Hardik Pandya for a direct hit at the stumps. Shaan Masood was equally confident, signalling to his partner Iftikhar Ahmed that he was fine. Pandya had rushed on from his follow-through as the ball rolled off the pads to the on-side, swooped, and flung a direct hit, even as he tumbled on the ground. Out charged Kohli with his verdict. He would have had extra reason for Masood to be back in the hut as he had missed a relatively easy run-out chance himself. Masood had pushed the ball towards him at mid-off and Kohli had done all the hard work- the manic run, the pick-up – but his underarm throw from pretty close to the stumps at non-striker’s end missed. First he winced, then he had a smile.

Sriram Veera

Shan’s Derby-days add spice to Pak galloping counter

Where was Shan Masood when Pakistan was playing India in the Asia Cup? He was on the English county circuit, scoring runs that would fill a goods train. Turning up for Derbyshire, Masood had 1000-plus runs when wearing whites. And when the ball turned white and clothes got colours, he made 547 T20 runs and 145 in 3 one-dayers. A batter in the classical mould, he had caught the eye of Mickey Arthur when he was the Pakistan coach. And when the South African got signed to coach Derbyshire, he insisted on Masood. The Pakistan frontline batter delivered. Such was his form that he got Masood to lead his county. Those days in England, dealing with swing, came in handy at MCG. The Indian pacers were making the ball talk but Masood knew the routine. He kept the bat close to the bat, playing late and bidding his time. He was also lucky.

Sandeep Dwivedi

No Ifs, no buts, just 4 sixes for Iftikhar

Iftikhar Ahmed had to wait for 24 balls, but after patiently negotiating the challenging batting conditions, the Pakistan batsman cleared the straight boundary four times in quick succession – thrice in an over. Ahmed, who has a big-hitting reputation, had fore-warned opponents for which he was even pulled up publicly by Wasim Akram. With Pakistan’s middle-order coming under scrutiny whenever the openers are dismissed cheaply, Ahmed not only dismissed those concerns but also claimed ‘hitting sixes in big Australian grounds is not a problem.’

Ahmed’s confidence stems from his past record in Australia, where he has scored 108 runs in three matches at a strike-rate of close to 150 before Sunday’s match against India. Yet, his statement earned him a stern warning from Akram.

“Whatever he scored, that was 3-4 years ago… he was named the Player of the Match and Player of the Series in Australia, that was four years ago, man. This is a different ball game, a World Cup. You won’t be up against one team but a lot of them,” Akram was quoted as saying by A Sports.
So far till the four 6s sailed, he’ had proven Akram wrong.

Mihir Vasavda

Not Parchi Chacha, but Sixer Chacha

Iftikhar Ahmed has a couple of nicknames, none of them complimentary. They call him Chacha, the reason being his age is often written in inverted commas. Records say he is 32, but there are also some alternate truths. His extended stay in the team, despite his form slump, gave him another name, or rather a taunt. Along with the other middle-order batter Khushdil Shah, he was referred to as ‘parchi’. On the Pakistan cricket circuit, or in general around the country, parchi means a chit of paper used to recommend someone who doesn’t deserve it. It means the player is in the team with no merit. In the recent past, Abdul Qadir’s son Usman was called parchi player by the fans, prompting Wasim Akram to speak out in his defence. But after Iftikhar’s spectacular 51, where he hit 1 six off Ashwin and 3 off Axar, Pakistan needs to find a name that is worthy of his talent. Sixer Chacha – wouldn’t be bad.

Sandeep Dwivedi

For Sixy Iftikhar, age is just a Thunder

“He is 29? Really?!” Waqar Younis had once said on a television discussion much to the merriment of Wasim Akram and Misbah-ul-Haq. Another co-panellist Wahab Riaz couldn’t control his laughter.

It was last year’s discussion on A Sports when Waqar addressed a fan question about whether Iftikhar Ahmed can replace Shoaib Malik in the middle order. “He is the same age as Shoaib Malik, if I am not wrong,” Waqar started when Riaz began laughing. The host said ’29’. That’s when Waqar went for his “really?” Comment. He is 32 years old as of today, according to available records. Malik is 40.

In a Melbourne moment, he had changed the complexion of the game with four monstrous hits. First he charged Ashwin to dispatch a carrom-ball over long-on and even as the Aussie commentator was saying how it’s wise to go straight at MCG as the straighter boundaries are relatively smaller, he slog-swept Axar over midwicket. Then went down on his knee to crash-land a six over long-off before another one was thrown back from the long-on stands. Age doesn’t matter; his hits do.

Sriram Veera

Spider cam: NO WAY in the dome

“For f***’s sake” screamed Hardik Pandya. Rohit Sharma too had an expletive escape his lips. So did many Indian players. It was a bizarre situation when the spider cam cable cut down a plausible catch chance to dismiss Shan Masood. He was beaten in the air by Ashwin as he went for a big hit, and the ball swirled off the edge over covers. Kohli ran in from the deep but had to stop as the ball clanged on the cable and dropped down straight.

The umpire would signal a dead ball but Pandya and Rohit had more serious concerns about a wasted chance of a dismissal. Rohit shook his hands furiously to suggest the spider cam be moved further away. So did Pandya. And so did the umpire. Masood was on 31 then and it was the 15th over. Let’s see how many more he gets.

Sriram Veera

Asif winces, DK stays monkish calm

That looked bad Live. It would have looked worse on the big screen when Asif Ali walked back, one eye on the replay. It was a bouncer from Arshdeep, who like Bhuvaneshwar is proving to be an expert with the surprise weapon, that didn’t quite climb head-high.

So what did Asif do? He took his eyes off, ducked right into the bouncer to make it head high. He put up his bat as a face shield and it popped up behind the stumps where Dinesh Karthik pouched it. DK who once used to be so restless and so expressive, has turned into a MS Dhoni-like character almost. No expression on his face as he walked towards his team-mates.

Sriram Veera

Rohit’s the emo emperor

Like the famous Kohli-cam, we might need one for Rohit Sharma. He is turning out to be one of the more expressive captains in world cricket. In the past, he has kissed his team-mates on the foreheads, mock-strangled them in jest, apart from the usual winces, roars, and screams.

Today, he smiled a lot. Winced as much. And also once punched himself. Yes him self. When a ball sneaked off the outer edge between a wide slip and the ‘keeper to the third man boundary, he extended his left arm out and punched it hard with his right. Masochism has rarely looked this funny. Not just humans or limbs that caught his ire, he also screamed at the spider cam.

Sriram Veera

Wicket-crunching Pandya’s snark for a lark

Sarcasm was Hardik Pandya’s predominant emotion whenever he picked a wicket on Sunday. He did not leap or dash, or punch the air or hit the turf. When he had Haider Ali miscue a short of length ball, he just stood in his follow-through and kept grinning sarcastically at the fallen batter. Then when he consumed Mohammad Nawaz with a short ball that the batter tried to ramp, he broke into a mini-jog, flapping his hands as though suggesting Masood to hurry back to the dugout, wearing a what’s-the-big-deal-about-the-wickets smile. He met Shadab Khan with a poker face before sending him off with a clap. A cricketer born for theatre, no one does sarcasm in the team as naturally as Pandya does.

Sandip G

Haris Rauf lording it at MCG, his home away from home

“MCG is my home ground because I play for the Melbourne Stars, and I have an idea of how the conditions play out there. I’ve already started planning on how I would bowl against India,” Haris Rauf had sent out a warning last month.
He walked the talk on the big day. A sharp straightener from a hard length had Rohit Sharma poking tentatively, edging to slips. Then when Suryakumar Yadav pulled him for a boundary, he didn’t take a back seat. Instead, got his radar straighter and hurled one from short of length that cut back in to the batsman. Suryakumar arched back but found the ball kept coming in towards him, and tried to ride the bounce with the wrists but couldn’t. Rauf had been punching away in delight on yet another Melbourne night. He had already smashed his first ball – leg-side full toss from Bhuvneshwar Kumar- for a massive six over midwicket and is now carrying on the demolition job with the ball.

Sriram Veera

Commit-shy Rahul pays the price

KL Rahul has got himself into these stuck-in-between positions in two big games against Pakistan, at last year’s T20 World Cup and on Sunday against the same opposition. And he has paid the price against two very quick bowlers who can swing the ball. Against Shaheen Shah Afridi in Dubai, Rahul tried to play the incoming ball by angling the bat into the delivery path. But it ended up going nowhere, except onto his thighs and then the stumps. Today, though he kept out Afridi, Naseem Shah got him. Rahul tried to use the open face of the bat to get the ball away but the inside edge ricocheted off his pad and crashed into the stumps. On both occasions, the Pakistani bowlers produced the good length ball and Rahul made the mistake of not playing with the full face of the bat and for not committing to a stroke.

Nihal Koshie

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