AHMEDABAD: In the late 1980s and mid-1990s, when Pakistan cricket ruled the world in limited-overs cricket, their opponents just could not relax in the middle. The pace and variety that the men in green had in their team often triggered a stunning collapse in opposition ranks from a position of strength, especially in contests against India.
India vs Pakistan: Rohit Sharma, bowlers star in India’s dominant 7-wicket win
Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aaqib Javed, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, the list goes on…
How the tables have turned. The current Indian team is now blessed with similar variety, if not better. Every bowler presents a different challenge to the batter and can provide a breakthrough when nothing seems to be happening off the pitch.
In the high-stakes match at a nearly-packed Narendra Modi Stadium, the Indian bowling attack came to the party to trigger a spectacular collapse to reduce Pakistan from 155/2 in 29.3 overs to 191 all out in only 42.5 overs.
Credit also goes to Rohit Sharma‘s captaincy. He did not panic when Mohammed Siraj over pitched and strayed down the leg side, conceding 20 runs in his first two overs to Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique. Rohit just had a quiet word with the bowler, asking him if he was better off dragging his length back a bit. Siraj then realized that with no swing in the air or movement off the pitch, the best thing to do on a slow, black-soil pitch was to bowl cross-seam on length.
He did that to dismiss Abdullah Shafique first and then Babar Azam. The beauty about both those dismissals were they came when the batters were set, especially Babar, who scored his first half-ton against India.
Mohammad Rizwan, the buccaneering Pakistan wicketkeeper-batsman, had practiced sweeps and reverse sweeps extensively over two training sessions to throw the Indian spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav off. He attempted to sweep Jadeja early on and missed and survived a close leg-before call.
That perhaps unnerved him as he hardly used the sweep to Kuldeep after that. It allowed the chinaman bowler to settle down and bowl better to the other batters. His double-wicket over, the 33rd of the innings where he dismissed Saud Shakeel leg-before and Iftikhar Ahmad got Pakistan five down. Shakeel was beaten by length as Kuldeep got the ball to skid while Iftikhar was foxed by an attempted wrong one that bounced on the batter, making him glove his sweep on to the
Smelling blood, Rohit brought back Jasprit Bumrah. The Indian attack had looked vulnerable when Bumrah was out of the team for almost a year. Now, it has suddenly rediscovered its fangs. Few bowlers read pitches and situations as well as Bumrah does. A wonderfully disguised off-cutter cut Rizwan in half and castled him for 49.
Bumrah’s slower one is difficult to pick because of its late release. He lets the ball go almost after the arm is in front of him, with minimal change in his arm speed. His wicket of Shadab Khan was a thing of magic. From the same length off which he dismissed Rizwan, he produced a seam-up delivery that held its line from middle stump, opened the batter up and forced him to play the wrong line. The ball rattled the stumps. It was vintage Bumrah, getting wickets by taking the pitch out of the equation.
There was just no release for Pakistan on Saturday. Sensing their desperation and need to break free, Rohit brought in Hardik Pandya – who was so impressive with the wicket of Imam-ul-Haq, getting a length ball to seam away to produce the edge – in the hope of inducing a false shot. Mohammad Nawaz obliged by holing out to Bumrah.
Ravindra Jadeja might have gone wicketless in his first seven overs for 29, but he was responsible for the slow choke in the middle.
Give him a pitch that stops just a bit, and he becomes deadly as he can bowl at one spot. He bowled beautifully in tandem with Kuldeep, stringing dots after dots. His reward came when he got to polish off the tail.