Asia Cup: Afridi breaks Indian hearts, wins it for Pakistan
The poster boy of Pakistan cricket, Shahid Afridi, hit two blistering sixes in the final over to seal a nail-biting one-wicket victory over arch-rival India in one of the most-eagerly anticipated matches of the 2014 Asia Cup at Mirpur, Dhaka.
Afridi remained not out on 34 (2x6, 3x4, 18 balls) as he guided his team over the finish line even as wickets fell around him in a heap towards the end of the innings.
Pakistan made 249 for nine after India had posted a modest 245 for eight, put into bat first by Misbah-ul-Haq.
Mohammad Hafeez was named the man-of-the-match for his all-round performance, taking 2 wickets for 28 runs and then hitting 75 invaluable runs while chasing.
There was no inkling of the storm that was to follow as Pakistan's openers Ahmed Shehzad (42) and Sharjeel Khan (25) took the Indian bowlers to the cleaners in a rollicking stand of 71.
Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin – bowling with a changed action in the tournament - finally got the breakthrough when a carrom ball sneaked through Khan's defences to disturb his woodwork.
India came back strongly, taking three more wickets including the prized scalp of Pakistan batting's backbone Misbah-ul-Haq who was run out for just 1.
It was leg-spinner Amit Mishra who put the brakes on Pakistan's innings, drying up the runs in a controlled and economical spell.
The leggie, who has been warming the bench for a while now, got Shehzad to pull a short ball straight to midwicket and then removed Umar Akmal, who fell for a tossed up delivery to be caught spectacularly by Ravindra Jadeja running backwards.
Sohaib Maqsood (38) then joined Mohammed Hafeez and the two pulled the team out of the woods with a partnership of 87.
But just when Pakistan seemed to be coasting to victory, the script changed once more.
First to fall was Hafeez, caught at deep square leg off Ashwin.
In the next over, Pakistan had the second run out of the innings and lost Maqsood (38). The guilty partner was Shahid Afridi who realised too late that there was no run leaving his partner high and dry.
However, Afridi had the last laugh even as Umar Gul, debutant Mohd Talha and Saeed Ajmal fell in quick succession as Pakistan almost made a mess of the chase.
Afridi hit Ravindra Jadeja for a six and a four in the 46th over and followed it up with a four off Bhuvneshwar Kumar in the next over. In between, Gul (12) too got into the act and hit Kumar for a six.
After Ajmal fell in the first ball of the last over, Pakistan still needed 10 runs.
But Afridi kept his cool and hit two sixes to seal a memorable victory with two balls to spare.
Earlier, India rode half-centuries by Rohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja to get to a decent 245 for eight in the must-win match.
Jadeja (52 not out) provided the late flourish after solid innings from Rohit (56) and Rayudu (58) who kept the scoreboard ticking despite some tight bowling by Pakistan.
India had another poor start with Shikhar Dhawan (10) misfiring this time. Winning the toss and choosing to bowl, Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq opened with spinner Mohammad Hafeez along with Umar Gul. The ploy paid off as a good length ball did not spin and skidded on to Dhawan's pad, trapping him LBW.
But despite the early loss, Rohit Sharma continued in the attacking mode, hitting the Pakistan bowlers all over the ground as he raced to 56 in just 58 balls. He hit seven fours and two sixes before becoming one of the two victims of debutant Pakistan bowler Mohammad Talha.
However, captain Virat Kohli had a rare failure as he edged Umar Gul to wicket-keeper Umar Akmal for just five.
Ajinkya Rahane and Dinesh Karthik scored 23 apiece but failed to capitalise on their starts, getting out in crucial junctures to slow down India's run-getting.
Karthik fell after a 52-run partnership with Rayudu, trying a premeditated sweep that went straight to the hands of Saeed Ajmal at short fine leg.
Things looked bleak for India with the score reading at 155 for five.
In walked Ravindra Jadeja and he alongwith Rayudu put up the largest partnership of the innings, smashing 59 off 61 balls.
Rayudu's 57, his second half century in ODIs came off 60 balls that had four fours and a six. Jadeja too got to his half century scoring 52 off 49 balls.
Rayudu fell in the 47th over trying to give Saeed Ajmal the charge but holing out to long on after failing to pick up the doosra.
R Ashwin kept the scoreboard ticking with a few streaky boundaries towards the end. India scored 44 runs off the last five overs to get to a decent score.
Live Commentary, Pakistan Innings:
Commentary, India Innings: