In a thrilling Super 4 match of the Asia Cup on Sunday in Dubai, a strategically superior Pakistan defeated India by five wickets using a Mohammed Nawaz punt to catch them off guard.
The ever-reliable Mohammed Rizwan (71 off 51 balls) served as the cornerstone of Pakistan’s innings as it attempted to reach the challenging target of 182.
Still, it was left-handed batsman Nawaz, who is better known for his traditional left-arm spin, who delivered the game-winning blow.
Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar Ali finished a well-deserved win with a ball to spare thanks to his 42 off 20 balls, which India failed to account for and for which there was no game plan.
The Indians were caught off guard by the 73-run partnership between Rizwan and Nawaz in only 6.5 overs in the middle of the innings.
The two bowlers Nawaz brought to the cleaners last Sunday, Yuzvendra Chahal (1/43 in 4 overs) and Hardik Pandya (1/44 in 4 overs), were pedestrian on this particular day.
As a result of Nawaz’s six fours and two sixes, Pakistan’s 87 from their combined eight overs won the game for them.
While Pandya’s short-ball strategy failed, Rizwan and Nawaz took Chahal to task as the lines on Rohit Sharma’s forehead deepened with each pass over.
By the time Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s bowling caused Nawaz to be holed out in the deep, he had already done enough psychological damage to the Indian assault.
The absence of a speedster further hampered India’s hopes to replace Avesh Khan in the starting lineup, but Ravi Bishnoi (1/26 in 4 overs) gave it his best.
Everything ended when Bhuvneshwar conceded 19 runs in the 19th over with just seven runs remaining in Arshdeep’s last over, which Pakistan eventually scored with one ball remaining.
When India put up a strong 181 for 7 after being called into bat, the often criticized top-order hitters finally showed their abilities.
Skipper Rohit Sharma (28) and KL Rahul (28) were superb in the Powerplay. At the same time, Virat Kohli (60) offered hints of his classic form by playing one of his most exquisite games in recent times to propel India to a more than acceptable total.
Everyone expected a shift in attitude from India’s top order, and the strike rates of 175 (Rohit), 140 (Rahul), and 136 (Kohli) were proof of that.
Total India scored against Pakistan spinners is Kohli’s fault, notably when leg-spinner Shadab Khan (2/31 in 4 overs) secured crucial dismissals for Rahul and Rishabh Pant (14).
Along with his trademark dashing between the wickets, his innings included four boundaries and a six when he quickly turned ones into twos.
After receiving criticism for their deliberate pace during the Powerplay, captain Rohit made his intentions clear by giving Naseem Shah the charge and obtaining a one-bounce-four over cover point. A remarkable pull-shot for a six followed it.
Rahul, who has struggled against Hong Kong, skillfully read the slower ball early in Naseem’s following over and sent it over long-off for a six, but the stroke of the innings came from the final delivery. The vice-captain of India fired a helicopter shot out of sheer impulse.
When 50 was reached in the fifth over, and India was off the blocks for the first time in the previous three games against Pakistan at this location, Rohit lunged at Haris Rauf after both had calmed down wonderfully.
The grammar of T20 cricket has altered, and Rahul’s 20-ball 28 and Rohit’s 16-ball 28 carried the appropriate impact and purpose needed in high-stress situations.
Although Rahul failed to cross the long-on boundary off Shadab and Rohit mistimed a slower one from Rauf, they set the stage for Kohli to relax and find his rhythm before he began playing his strokes.
Within the first 10 overs, Pakistani captain Babar Azam skillfully employed his spinners Shadab and Mohammed Nawaz (4-0-25-1) to halt the flow of runs, although his strategy was only partly effective.
Thanks to Kohli and his optimistic attitude, Pant earned breathing room until he unchained himself with a pull-off Hasnain.
Another cover drive was hit off Naseem, who kept coming down the track to throw off the bowlers’ rhythm even as he lost partners at the other end.
Hasnain’s delivery into the mid-wicket stands brought Kohli’s fifty off only 36 balls.
When Fakhar Zaman committed back-to-back errors in the outfield, Ravi Bishnoi scored a few good boundaries at the far end.