Under controversial circumstances, India was set to take on the newly crowned number 1 ranked ODI team in the world, Pakistan in a high-voltage encounter in the Group Stage game of the Asia Cup 2023 at Pallekele.
India playing their first game of the tournament was looking to extend the edge over their counterparts in ICC events. After crushing Nepal in their first group-stage game, Pakistan were seeking to confirm their spot in the finals in back-to-back editions.
The odds of the pre-match predictions were slightly inclined towards India buoyed by their superior track record and player profile.
The big team news in the middle for India was the availability of their premiere strike bowler Jasprit Bumrah.
Pakistan: 1. Fakhar Zaman, 2. Imam-ul-Haq, 3. Babar Azam (Capt), 4. Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5. Agha Salman, 6. Iftikhar Ahmed, 7. Shadab Khan, 8. Mohammad Nawaz, 9. Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10. Naseem Shah, 11. Haris Rauf
India: 1. Rohit Sharma (Capt), 2. Shubman Gill, 3. Ishan Kishan (wk), 4. Virat Kohli, 5. Shreyas Iyer, 6. Hardik Pandya, 7. Ravindra Jadeja, 8. Shardul Thakur 9. Kuldeep Yadav, 10. Mohammed Siraj, 11. Jasprit Bumrah
Winning the toss, India opted to bat first amidst concerns of a mild shower during the game. Even though it was short lived, rain did halt play.
With the new ball in hand, all eyes were on Shaheen Shah Afridi to set the stage alight with his wizardry up front. As fortune would have it, he didn’t disappoint.
He picked up Rohit Sharma once again with a trademark inswinger from a magical setup. It was King Kohli’s turn afterwards. He too perished from a drag-back on to the stumps before troubling the scorers too much.
Haris Rouf was not to miss out on the party. His express pace got the returning Shreyas Iyer back to the pavilion. Shubman Gill too was dismissed shortly with an absolute jaffa. Arguably the best ball of the game, there was little that Gill could muster to survive the unplayable delivery.
While India’s top 4 was wiped out like a house of cards, it was Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya who stitched a vital partnership to continue the proceedings.
Kishan particularly was on song. His enterprising strokeplay coupled with Pandya’s calculated power hitting bailed them out of a precarious scenario.
It was Rauf’s extra pace once again as he ran through the crease to outwit Kishan who missed out on a well deserved century. Following suit, Shaheen got rid of Pandya next up with a brilliant slower delivery that the latter failed to read.
Captaincy and Tactics
Pakistan’s quality of fast bowling did enough to restrict India to a barely par score but many eyebrows were raised on the questionable defensive captaincy from Babar Azam.
His tactic of reserving the fast bowlers only for the death might have cost Pakistan dearly if not for Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf’s heroics at the back end of the innings.
The wicket of the seemingly unstoppable Ishan Kishan was the breaking moment of the game. He, along with Hardik Pandya were comfortably blunting out the Pakistani attack.
When Kishan was dismissed against the run of play, the momentum clearly shifted to the men in green. Run rate slowed down and Pandya got out in the process as well that eventually led to that terrible collapse.
With the ball in hand, Shaheen Shah Afridi was simply sensational. His mesmerising spells both with the new and the old ball moistened the eyes of the fans with memories of a prime time Wasim Akram.
Naseem Shah wrapped up the tail with his brilliant death over skill set and exceptional accuracy with the new ball.
Haris Rauf was the surprise package in the innings with his extra yard of pace troubling every batter. His crucial wickets of Shubman Gill & Ishan Kishan at critical points proved to be the game changer.
The top order failed miserably in front of the pace, seam, and swing of the lethal attack of the Pakistani contingent. Their sheer weakness against left-arm fast bowling and genuine pace was badly exposed once again.
Making an appearance in the eleven in place of the injured KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan carried on with his rich vein of form with an aggressive knock of 82 from just 81 balls. The diminutive left-hander once again showed the world that he belonged at this level.
Despite struggling early on in his innings, Pandya gradually crawled out of his shell. He was particularly brutal to the spinners smashing them all over the park. His entertaining 87 off 90 balls played a defining role in taking the Indian total past 250 and beyond.
On a pitch that provided enough help for both the seamers and spinners, the mighty Indian batting lineup might have felt a bit hard done by.
One of the best fielders in the team, Shadab Khan took a spectacular catch off Naseem Shah’s ball to dismiss Shardul Thakur.
However, apart from Shadab’s screamer, Pakistan’s overall fielding was quite sloppy in general. Poor ground fielding & commitment cost them a plenty and it seemed at one point that India might even cross the 300 run mark.
Player of the Match
As the game was called off due to rain, no Player of the Match was declared.
Tweets & Posts
As the match got called of due to rain but can’t hold but talk about spectacular bowling spell by our fast bowlers specially Shaheen 🔥 It’s a confidence booster for our team..Hope that we get to watch another IndvPak on 10th sep✨
No result. Match abandoned due to rain.
India: 266/10 (48.5 overs)
Hardik Pandya – 87 (90)
Ishan Kishan – 81 (80)
Pakistan: Did Not Bat
Shaheen Shah Afridi – 4/35 (10)
The Pakistani bowlers rose to the occasion big time with timely breakthroughs and game-changing spells. The trio of Shaheen-Naseem-Haris promises to give many more sleepless nights to the batsmen around the world in the days to come.
The Indian middle order didn’t let the game slip away by showing their extraordinary grit and depth. Except for the first quarter, it was an evenly contested game of cricket.
The abandoned match resulted in Pakistan making it through to the Super 4 stage with Nepal awaiting India in a potential knockout game up next.
A game that began in seamless anticipation and drama ended with a huge anti-climax as it was rain who had the last laugh.