It was meant to be his day. How else would you explain the drop catches in an otherwise splendid advertisement of class? Virat Kohli has sealed yet another chase for India, their first win in Super Eights since the advent of the IPL. However, India still are behind Pakistan in NRR as they won it with 3 overs to spare. Had they consumed one ball less, they would have gone ahead, it is understood.
Pakistan have unravelled like a seam on a faded dress today. Their batting has been shambles and they hardly had any luck for a team that defended a modest total.
There's something going in India's way when they play against Pakistan in a World Cup!
Sehwag accompanied by a sudden brain-freeze tries to clear long-off and finds the fielder there. Gul finds it difficult to balance but stops millimeters before the rope.
V Sehwag c U Gul b S Afridi 29 off 24 balls (3x4)
Virat Kohli gives yet another indication of the kind of form he is in. Ajmal bowled a doosra landing on good length, Kohli picked it up early and cut it for a boundary. In the next over, he shimmied down and whacked Ajmal onto the sightscreen. He got yet another fifty only at a better strike rate.
Yuvraj wasn’t looking at his best with the bat but had enough time to settle. Afridi has been floating up half-volleys and Yuvraj has happily accepted them playing himself into form.
Overs 5-10 India 70/1
India are completely in control of this chase now. Sehwag has played with a lot of responsibility rotating strike to his younger partner and Kohli has adopted the role of an aggressor here.
It was only three balls before Kohli shimmied down the track and launched Afridi over long off. In the next over he tried to repeat it, nicked it and Pakistan didn't have a slip.
In the next, Kohli played a crisp drive against Arafat and then dabbed him delicately beating the third man for two consecutive boundaries. Off the next delivery, Umar Akmal would have taken the catch of the tournament diving to his left had he held on. But somehow.. it slipped. Luck not going their Pakistan’s way?
Overs 0-5 India 30/1
Mohandas Menon tweets (@mohanstatsman): To get ahead of Pakistan NRR India need to win with 19 balls to spare
Trying to defend 128, Pakistan need wickets and Raza Hasan provided one in the second ball. Gambhir tried to give a charge and hit it straight back to the bowler.
G Gambhir c & b R Hasan 0 off 2 balls
Raza Hasan is more than impressive. Never has he let the occasion get to him as he kept things simple and have kept the likes of Kohli and Sehwag guessing.
Sehwag announced his arrival with a trade mark punch in the covers. The played a lofted shot over midwicket. While Kohli hasn’t looked very convincing, you would hardly expect him to throw his wicket away.
The pair could do worse than ensure India don’t lose quick wickets.
Overs 15-20 Pakistan 128/10
India restrict Pakistan to 128. Yes, this 4 bowler strategy has worked wonders for Dhoni. Or rather Yuvraj and Kohli have bowled better than what could be expected from specialist bowlers.
Ravi Ashwin pitched it short which Umar couldn’t get hold off and eventually pulled it straight to Raina in deep midwicket.
U Akmal c Raina b Ashwin 21 off 18 balls (1x6)
Then came the moment of the match. Arafat slapped Zaheer to Yuvraj and tried to sneak a single. Yuvraj at backward point effected a wonderful throw as he was regaining balance that evaded Zaheer’s fingers and hit the top of the middle-stump. Combination of good and bad fielding did Arafat in.
Y Arafat run out 8 off 11 balls (1x4)
Balaji exasperated with full tosses in the death one of which was dispatched by Gul into the stands. However he fell for the next full toss as he edged it to Dhoni. Next ball, Ajmal went for a paddle, mistimed and found Dhoni’s gloves.
U Gul c Dhoni b Balaji 12 off 10 balls (1x4 1x6)
S Ajmal c Dhoni b Balaji 1 off 2 balls
Overs 10-15 Pakistan 105/5
Shoiab Malik and Umar Akmal have done very well to ensure that there no further loss of wickets and have also scored close to 7 an over.
Umar Akmal clobbered a short of a middle and off length delivery from Pathan and sent it into the stands. Shoiab Malik scored all the three fours, two off Kohli and one off Balaji, that have arrived in this span.
Meanwhile Dhoni was back to - what we call and he doesn’t like to call - the ‘first-choice’ bowlers. Pathan bowled the 12th, Ashwin 13th and Balaji 15th. They were on the expected lines - without a wicket.
Overs 5-10 Pakistan 60/5
It was perhaps time for part-timers to announce their arrival. Three wickets to Yuvraj and Kohli and Pakistan have begun to implode.
First to fall was Jamshed, who tried to cut Yuvraj, ended up under-edging it to Dhoni. Kamran in Yuvraj's next over went for a cover drive and got a faint nick to Dhoni.
N Jamshed c Dhoni b Yuvraj Singh 4 off 5 balls
K Akmal c Dhoni b Yuvraj Singh 5 off 6 balls
The moment he removed Afridi, Balaji’s job was over for time being, or at least Dhoni thought so. Virat Kohli, who, according to Andy Zaltzman, is trying to bowl and also remove his shirts, replaced Balaji.
Hafeez gave himself room and steer it through the off-side when Kohli has actually landed it on the leg-stumps and played on.
M Hafeez b Kohli 15 off 28 balls (1x4)
Overs 1-5 Pakistan 36/2
Irfan Pathan bowled the second over and straightaway Dhoni enjoyed the benefits of handing him the new ball. First ball got Nazir’s inside-edge. A perplexed Nazir was relieved to know that didn’t hit the stumps. The next ball, Nazir was down the track, the ball was brought back by Pathan and Rod Tucker nods after a deliberation.
I Nazir lbw b Pathan 8 off 5 balls (2x4
Sidvee tweets (@sidvee): Finally Dhoni figures out that Pathan is an opener with the ball and not the bat.
Earlier, Zaheer Khan’s first over brought back gloomy memories of the 2003 World Cup. Punctuated by wides, byes, Zaheer gave away 13 runs in that over. In fact he must have surprised Hafeez with a length ball, which made him play across the line and nick it, only for Sehwag to drop a difficult catch at first slip. However, he got back his rhythm back in his subsequent over.
As a surprise move, Afridi was sent in at No.3 today. However, Indian bowlers especially Pathan and Balaji, found a way by mixing up pace against him before he was undid by a mistimed pull. Suresh Raina was pushed to deep midwicket for this reason and he hardly drops catches.
S Afridi c Raina b Balaji 14 off 12 balls (2x4
Yuvraj Singh is at his acrobatic best today. He saved a certain boundary diving to his left at cover in the first over and then after being moved to long on for Afridi, he stopped one more.
Pakistan have won the toss and have decided to bat first. Dhoni agrees that he would have batted anyway.
V Sehwag, G Gambhir, V Kohli, SK Raina, R Sharma, Y Singh, MS Dhoni (Captain & Wicket-keeper), I Pathan, R Ashwin, Z Khan, L Balaji
M Hafeez (Captain), I Nazir, Nasir Jamshed, K Akmal (Wicket-keeper), S Malik, U Akmal, S Afridi, Y Arafat, R Hasan, U Gul, S Ajmal
Sehwag and Balaji come in place of Chawla and Harbhajan. Since Pakistan are better players of spin, Dhoni’s gone with Balaji, it is understood.
This India Pakistan game simply does not matter.
Let me explain.
Regardless of whether Pakistan win or lose, there aren’t going to be a part of the next Indian Premier League anyway. Now, isn’t that a good enough reason?
If they aren’t going to play the IPL, to put it simply, they aren’t going to be as rich as their counterparts. Not only that, they are going to miss the glitz, glamour, post match parties and more importantly the cheer girls – the key reason I believe Sri Lanka hasn’t pulled big crowds in this World T20.
On the other hand, if India win they keep their World Cup record against Pakistan intact. If they lose, the players get a much needed rest ahead of the Champions League.
I know you are going to tell me how it is the country which will and should be a player’s first priority. But pause for a second. One of the three experts who are present in the studio today – Wasim Akram, Sourav Ganguly and Kevin Pietersen - is there because he loved playing for his IPL club. So don’t even get me started on that.
With that said, let us discuss the line-ups for this pointless game. Virender Sehwag has been seen skipping the net session although he was a part of a football game. Whether Sunil Chhetri has assured him a place in the national football squad is not known yet, but to skip practice sessions in the midst of the tournament especially when his form has become a hot topic of discussion is befuddling.
Harbhajan and Chawla loved bowling against the English batsman but it is unlikely that they are going to bowl at them unless they advance to the semifinals, which further contributes to the selection dilemma. So as one might observe, picking the playing eleven from being a problem of plenty – which is what Dhoni believed it was after the game against England - has sadly rearranged itself into plenty of problems.
Pakistan, on the other hand, are having issues with their batting. Umar Akmal has been the only silver lining in their batting. Umar Gul had to compensate for his bowling form by playing a crucial cameo to ensure Pakistan chase down 136. But they have chased down 185 against India in the practice game which gives them a psychological edge.
P.S: Don’t go anywhere. If India wins today, I’m going to hail Dhoni’s courage to insulate himself from what the critics say and follow his gut instinct. For all his indolence, how do you expect Dhoni to pick Sehwag in the eleven?
If India loses, however, I’m going take a dig at Dhoni’s unprofessionalism and adamancy that makes him deaf to even those who are supposed to be his well-wishers. I mean, how could you leave a demolisher out when the team so badly needs one?