An example of how quickly the tide can change in the Twenty20 format was witnessed at the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday. Pakistan were sailing in calm waters at the start of the game but at the end of the evening, they were the ones left with a sinking feeling as India stormed back into reckoning in the World Twenty20 with an eight-wicket victory in their second Super Eights game.
The hero of the show was again Virat Kohli, who blazed to an unbeaten 78 to maintain India's domination over Pakistan in World Cups.
Only one of the two teams will qualify for the semifinals from Group 2, and in their final games, India have a relatively easier outing against the struggling South Africans - they have lost both games -- while Pakistan run into the marauding Australia.
Finally, good sense prevailed in the Indian dressing room and Virender Sehwag made a comeback into the playing eleven, as did the tried and tested combination of three-pacers and one spinner. The impact was instant and the results were right. The confused state of mind in the last game against Australia gave way to a purposeful approach as the entire blue brigade pulled in the same direction.
Pulverised by Australia in the opening game, India were staring at elimination. But the pressure brought the best out of Dhoni's men. The bowlers were all fired up and the fielding was tigerish. Except for Sehwag's first-over blemish, when he grassed one in the slip, all catches were taken.
In a four-specialist bowler combination, the role of part timers becomes crucial, but on Sunday the fifth bowler's responsibility was shared brilliantly by Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli. The duo’s performance exceeded expectations. Between them, they bowled six overs for only 38 runs, and more importantly snared three big wickets. Dhoni used them smartly.
Being a do-or-die game, India were under the pump, but strangely it was Pakistan who came out looking tentative. Opting to bat, their top order lacked the needed conviction and paid the price. Pakistan were defending only 128 but when Gautam Gambhir was out off the second ball, it looked like they would make a match out of it. But Virat quickly extinguished any such thoughts with a swashbuckling unbeaten 78.
All eyes were on Sehwag when he walked into bat, but he soothed the edgy nerves with a boundary off the fifth ball, and at the end of the powerplay overs, India were 36 for one with Sehwag on 18 and Kohli on 16.
Kohli was aggressive but not reckless. The guile of offie Saeed Ajmal held no mystery for him. He sliced the offie through backward point for four and worked his next ball for a couple to bring up a dazzling half-century. Then, as if to prove who the master was, Kohli danced down the track and smashed Ajmal flat over long-on.
Pakistan had a chance to stop Kohli in the 10th over when he cut Yasir Arafat uppishly to point but Umar Akmal's acrobatic attempt didn't bear fruit as he spilled the ball when he touched down on the dive.