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Cricket: Pakistan prevail in last-over thriller


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Bangalore, Dec 25, 2012: Hafeez, Malik shine as visitors pull-off a five-wicket win to goup1-0 in the two-match series

The match ce­rt­ianly was in line with the Indo-Pak thrillers of the past with both the teams waging an intense battle at the M Chinnaswamy stadium on Tuesday. In the end, it was Pakistan who held their wits to emerge five-wicket winners.

 

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Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez had little hesitation in asking India to bat first once he won the toss, but what followed might have been beyond his dreams. Packed with as many as eight batsmen, India were expected to do much better than their eventual 133 for nine in 20 overs, but they didn’t have many answers to Pakistani bowlers, led superbly by pacer Umar Gul. After some drama, Pakistan touched tape through a six by Shoaib Malik (57 n.o) off Ravindra Jadeja.

But at 75 for no loss after 10 overs, there was no hint of the impending storm as an edgy Gautam Gambhir and confident Ajinkya Rahane pushed the board in contrasting style. Rahane was all silken smoothness, driving and lofting the ball over the infield with elan. Gambhir never found his timing and struggled just like he did in the Mumbai T20 against England a few days back.

However, there were a few attempts, even though feeble in nature, by the Delhi southpaw to get out of the rut, but largely he resembled a jail in-mate – cagy and eager for that bit of freedom. Just about to launch their push for a bigger total, India suffered a huge blow, losing Rahane to a lofted shot off Shahid Afridi. But with an array of batsmen available, India were expected to step on the pedal in the last 10 overs, but they went flat in the face of some accurate bowling, and their own indiscretions too contributed in a massive way as Indians resembled a rudderless boat in a stormy sea.

The dismissals of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli eptomised those factors – efficecncy of Pakistan bowlers and Indians’ carelessness. Dhoni had attempted that flailing cut off Saeed Ajmal, but the ball came in just that bit to graze the off-stump, rattling the bail en route to Kamran Akmal’s hand. After a few minutes of deliberation, third umpire Vineet Kulkarni gave the Jharkhand man out.

Kohli looked eager for quick runs and adopted some manic ways to find runs. But once Hafeez introduced strapping pacer Mohammad Irfan, who made his T20 debut, the Delhi right-hander went on an ultra-aggressive mood, swishing at every ball. And it had to end soon as Irfan found the outside edge soon for Kamran to complete the formalities.
Rest of the Indian batsmen were not eager for any fight as Gul & Co ran through the line-up to restrict India to a modest total.

However, suddenly that total assumed massive proportions as debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who returned impressive figures of 4-0-9-3, winkled out openers Naser Jamshed, Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal in no time to reduce the visitors to 12 for three inside three overs. It was a brilliant little spell by the Uttar Pradesh pace bowler, who swung the ball prodigiously to shake the Pak top-order.

Umar’s dismissal in particular was a delight to watch. After troubling Umar with a couple of deliveries that went away from him, Bhuvneshwar jagged the ball back into Umar and before the bat came down the ball sneaked into rattle the timber.

But unfortunately, his fine spell will remain a footnote as Hafeez (61) and Malik added 106 runs for the fourth wicket to take the game away from India.


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