India overcome Pak challenge

India overcome Pak challenge

Kohli, bowlers sparkle as Dhoni's men post five-wkt win in low-scoring game

India overcome Pak challenge
The cacophony befitted the intensity surrounding a typical India-Pakistan match. The road leading to the Sher-e-Bangla National stadium was decorated with large flags of the two countries with the constant rabble of noisy fans and endless photo sessions whetting the excitement.

The much-awaited contest of the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium lived up every bit to its hype.  It was replete with a dose of drama and nerve-jangling moments before India, riding on Virat Kohli's gutsy knock, coasted to a five-wicket victory.

If India had thought they had tamed Pakistan by restricting them to 83 in 17.3 overs, little did they know what awaited them.  Mohammad Aamir (3-18) showed what the world had missed during his five-year suspension due to spot-fixing. In his fast and mean spell, the 23-year-old left-arm bowler brilliantly swung the ball both ways to leave the Indian top-order completely befuddled.

Sticking largely to full or back of length deliveries in helpful conditions, he was almost unplayable for the Indians. He had singlehandedly scuttled them to 8/3 by the third over before a determined Kohli (49) and Yuvraj (14 n.o.) restored sanity with a fourth-wicket stand of 68. India finally finished the chase with 27 balls to spare.

The tournament favourites were caught off-guard when Aamir, bowling over the wicket, had the in-form Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who replaced the injured Shikar Dhawan, within two balls of his opening over. His delivery to Rohit swung in from the good length spot, slipped past his bat before thudding into his pad in front of the middle-stump. India had lost the first wicket without any runs on board. Rahane, too, was caught plumb, India 2-2 and the first over had yet not finished! Aamir returned to dismiss Suresh Raina who was caught at mid-on and India looked blank at 8/3.

It was here that Kohli played one of his finest innings, underlined by pluck and gumption. He thrives under pressure and with Yuvraj playing patiently at the other end, hope tip-toed back for India. The two saw off Aamir with certain obduracy before Kohli opened his arms against the young bowler in his last over. Back to back boundaries at square leg and cover region against Aamir launched India’s counter-attack and they were never to look back.

Kohli skilfully found gaps and Yuvraj stepped back and wisely rotated the strike. There was still a bit of drama left though, when Mohammad Sami in the 15th over trapped Kohli leg before and then two balls later, got Pandya. However, India completed the remaining run chase without further damage with Mahendra Singh Dhoni scoring the winning runs with a boundary through cover.

Earlier, India, certainly not the crowd favorites, stole the thunder on the field with a superlative display with the ball and sharp fielding. With the surface offering more grass, the Indians, electing to bowl, shared the exploits to break the back of Pakistan batting.

Pakistan had lost their six wickets by the eighth over. Pandya returned with the best figures of 3-8 in 3.3 overs. Ashish Nehra, enjoying a second wind on international circuit, continued to thrill with his performance. Mohammad Hafeez was back in just the fourth ball of the innings, beaten by the bounce.

Sharjeel Khan’s cut induced the edge that flew to the safe hands of Rahane at first slip. It started the rout. Shoaib Malik, trying to drive Pandya, could only get a thick edge and Ravindra Jadeja ran out captain Shahid Afridi with a brilliant piece of fielding. Pakistan sunk without a trace and India wrapped up the day with the pride of a job well done.