Akmal blitz fetches Pak thrilling win

Akmal blitz fetches Pak thrilling win

Pakistan pulled off a heist in fading light to emerge popular winners in their World T20 warm-up match against India here at the R Premadasa Stadium on Monday.

Despite amassing 185/3 on the back of a 127-run association between Virat Kohli (75, 47b, 7x4, 2x6) and Rohit Sharma (56, 40b, 6x4, 2x6), India failed to defend the big total as Pakistan reached the required target with five balls to spare, man-of-the-match Kamran Akmal (92, 50b, 5x4, 6x6) bringing up the victory in style with six off the first ball of the final over by Irfan Pathan.

After a frenetic start given by skipper Mohammad Hafeez (38, 29b, 4x4, 1x6), Pakistan appeared to have lost the way when they lost three wickets in the space of seven runs, including that of a well-set Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal. R Ashwin bowled exceptionally well to claim 4/23 on a surface that produced 391 runs in 39.1 overs and had well and truly got India back into the game. But a combination of brilliant batting by Kamran and some ordinary bowling by Indians negated the advantage.

The diminutive batsman was well-supported by Shoaib Malik (37, 18b, 2x4, 2x6) as the duo added 95 off 53 balls for the unbroken sixth-wicket stand.

Pakistan’s resurgence began when needing 75 off the last six overs, they clobbered 19 runs off 15th over by Zaheer Khan. With the equation coming to 29 off three, Ashwin gave away just seven in the 17th over. The next over by Lakshmipathi Balaji, however, proved decisive with Pakistan plundering 16 off it, effectively finishing off the match.

Fresh from his ICC ODI Player of the Year award, Kohli was brimming with confidence from the moment he walked on to the field after Gautam Gambhir fell cheaply once again. The stylish right-hander elegantly clipped the first ball he faced from Umar Gul to long-on fence and maintained that supreme assurance throughout his innings. In the process, Kohli also helped Rohit bat himself back into form following his knock of 37 against Sri Lanka in the first warm-up on Saturday.

Rohit had replaced a rampaging Virender Sehwag who was denied a six off Saeed Ajmal’s first ball as the TV umpire concluded that Mohammad Sami had caught the ball and thrown back onto the field before stepping on the rope. Sehwag was out the very next ball trying to cut the off-spinner but only finding the safe hands of Afridi.

Much as Rohit would be satisfied with his back-to-back meaningful contributions, the team management which has reposed great faith in the Mumbai batsman, would be equally relieved as they prepare for their opening match on Thursday.

Rohit, understandably, was circumspect but Kohli did all the running in the beginning of their big association to take the pressure off his under-scanner partner. Kohli used his feet well against the spinners and was audacious while facing the pacemen. Kohli’s confidence appeared to have rubbed on Rohit as the 25-year-old essayed some delightful strokes and even raced ahead of his colleague at one stage.

While there were obviously some positives to take home from the batting front, the inability to defend a total in excess of 180 will surely have left Dhoni a concerned captain.

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