Two days before the Super 10 matches of the World T20 get underway with former champions India and Pakistan squaring off in Mirpu, Wednesday’s practice matches threw up mixed results for the rivals. At the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium, India almost made a mess of defending their total of 178 against England. Around the same time in the other warm-up match at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali stadium in Fatullah, Pakistan were bundled out for just 71, losing to South Africa by eight wickets.
The two results once again brought to the fore the two team’s weaknesses: India’s inexperienced bowling and Pakistan’s dodgy batting lineup. And when the two teams face off on Friday evening, those are the two areas where they would be tested.
The win won’t change the records, but for the die-hard followers of the game, this was India’s first win against a top Test playing nation since November, when they defeated Australia in Bangalore in a one-dayer. In the meantime, India have beaten only West Indies, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the last two in the Asia Cup in Bangladesh earlier this month.
The other area of concern for skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni will be the fact that the opening pair of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan once again failed to get the team off to a start. Shikhar did look good with a couple of exquisite punches through cover and backward point, one of them even appreciated by bowler Tim Bresnan, but poor shot selection spelt his doom, again. Rohit never looked quite in control.
India, however, will take quite a few positives from the match. Suresh Raina has found his subcontinent touch and Virat Kohli’s consistency just keeps pushing the limits. The other positive was Dhoni, whose captaincy has been criticised all through India’s chain of defeats. He is back making things happen and at least on Wednesday, his ploys worked.
At the beginning of the chase when opener Michael Lumb was hitting Bhuvneshwar Kumar all around the park, Dhoni brought in the helmet and stood up to the pacer. The scoring rate dipped immediately.
Again, towards the end, when Moeen Ali began to cut loose against Ravindra Jadeja, the skipper brought the deep extra cover into the circle and pushed back the leg-side in-fielder for a second deep mid-wicket.
Ali, who has played at least four seasons in the Bangladesh club league after striking a friendship with former Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan during his county stint in Worcestershire, on seeing his favourite run-scoring area covered, tried to drag more square and was caught on the ropes. That took the momentum away when 38 off 19 balls was looking pretty achievable.