T20 WC: Babar, Rizwan and Shaheen star as Pakistan hammer India to snap World Cup losing streak

  • It was a statement. It was big. Pakistan are serious contenders for the title. Control every aspect of a match against India, and you could not ask for a better start on that path.
T20 World Cup: Babar, Rizwan and Shaheen star as Pakistan hammer India to snap World Cup losing streak.(AP)
T20 World Cup: Babar, Rizwan and Shaheen star as Pakistan hammer India to snap World Cup losing streak.(AP)
Published on Oct 24, 2021 11:52 PM IST
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ByRasesh Mandani, Dubai

It was not just a win. It was a big, loud, screaming statement that suddenly, unexpectedly, made the India T20 team—a team that went into this World Cup with the reputation of being indomitable—look tame.

With it, Pakistan also altered the path of a long history—India had never lost a limited-overs World Cup match to Pakistan before this. India had never lost a T20 match by 10 wickets before this either.

It was a statement. It was big. Pakistan are serious contenders for the title. Control every aspect of a match against India, and you could not ask for a better start on that path.

Shaheen Shah Afridi carries none of the baggage of the skewed World Cup record India has enjoyed against his country. The vintage fast left arm seamer brought the early portent for how wrong things would go for India.

In his third season in international cricket, Afridi ran in with the reputation of being a first-over slayer and did just that, pulling out a near-unplayable delivery in just the fourth ball of the day to fell Rohit Sharma.

The opener was squared up with a full-length delivery that bended in late and caught him in front of the stumps to turn up the already high-decibel atmosphere at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

In his next over, KL Rahul, who has been smashing bowlers for fun in recent games, was left in an even more awkward position. Afridi had pitched it a couple of yards shorter, but it tailed in and Rahul played all around it, soon getting the bad news from the zing bails, leaving India at 6/2. Given the way the match ended Pakistan’s long wait for a World Cup win, Afridi’s two over burst became a worthy addition to a long list of famous white-ball spells bowled by Pakistan bowlers—Wasim Akram in 1992 and more recently Mohammed Amir in the 2017 Champions trophy final. Afridi finished with 3/31.

The express bowler and his captain Babar Azam came into this World Cup promising crackling performances and both delivered first match up.

There was resistance to Afridi and his fellow pacers, and it came from Virat Kohli. The captain registered his presence with a whip over the long-on boundary in Afridi’s third powerplay over, to bring to life the Indian crowd, quite a few of whom had paid a massive sum of money to get in.

Some stands at the stadium were permitted more than 70 percent attendance for the big game and many Indian movie stars had checked in too. But they didn’t have much to cheer in the powerplay except a Suryakumar Yadav Caribbean-style whip over the deep square-leg ropes. Yadav carries more courage than technical prowess to the crease and his stay remained brief after Hasan Ali dismissed him caught behind on 11. Rishab Pant walked in at 31/3 and survived a close shave after missing a reverse sweep off Mohammed Hafeez. But Mohammed Rizwan’s enthusiasm would soon turn into despair and a review burned. Pant belongs to India’s long line of fearless strikers and he turned it on in the 11th over, smashing Hasan Ali for back-to-back one-handed sixes. He largely played the aggressor in his 53-run 4th wicket partnership with Kohli, before being undone by a Shadab Khan wrong-one for 39.

At 100/5 at the end of the 15th, the match was delicately poised. It had been a while since Kohli had delivered an impact performance. But he didn’t seem to be in a hurry. Hardik Pandya waited impatiently for his turn, pacing the dugout. Kohli registered a couple of boundaries in the 16th over but with flick of the wrists and his signature cover drive, nothing more adventurous. Kohli, running unbeaten in T20 World Cups against Pakistan for nine years—from Colombo via Dhaka to Kolkata—finally fell to a slower bouncer off Afridi for 57. India managed to strike some punches of their own, aided by poor Pakistani fielding in the final three overs and finished on 151.

Not going big earlier in the death overs is a call that perhaps came back to hurt India. The same way India also took a call to go for mix-and-match powerplay tactics with the ball to come back with nothing to show for it. Four different bowlers delivered the first four overs, Jasprit Bumrah held back to bowl the third. Pakistan also got their first sighting of Varun Chakaravarthy and both Azam and Rizwan took their time to read him. But Rizwan was making up for it by going after Mohammed Shami. Pakistan finished the powerplay largely unscathed at 43/0.

Indian spinners had one strong spell, before the dreaded dew began to take effect. It may have been one of the reasons India went in with three seamers and kept Ravichandran Ashwin out.

Bumrah was called in to bowl the 11th over and that’s when Azam smashed him past extra cover. The Pakistan captain, arguably the next best architect of a cover drive after Kohli, was determined to make this his night. With dew showing up, Azam then decided to target Chakaravarthy, taking two sixes off him, one down on one knee, then messing with the bowlers’ length to bring up his 50 in style. That is how Pakistan brought on their 100 in the 13th over itself, the match all but sealed. Every time the Indian spinners dropped it short, the classy Azam was up to the task with his decisive footwork setting off fireworks.

Soon, the Indian fielders wore a desolate look and the Indian crowd began to disperse. Pakistan’s openers continued their merry hitting ride to close the game in the 18th over.

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Friday, December 03, 2021