The reverse severely hits India’s chances of qualifying for the final.
The incendiary thrill of watching Shahid Afridi bat is, for the most part, a consequence of his whimsicality. Although his destructive skills have waned, ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi pulled off a show-stopping stunt on Sunday as Pakistan scraped past India’s total (245 for eight) with one wicket in hand and two balls to spare.
With a six off R. Ashwin to seal the game, Afridi, who turned 34 on Saturday, gave himself and the team the perfect present in a pulsating Asia Cup match. Befitting of a contest that propped up many heroes — Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, and Ambati Rayudu for India, and man-of-the-match Mohammad Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal for Pakistan — the result remained tantalising till the end. The outcome has also severely hit India’s chances of qualifying for the final.
When debutant Mohammad Talha’s lofty hit descended into long-off’s hands, Afridi crossed over. It was a faux pas that could have proved costly as Pakistan required 10 runs in the last over, and Ajmal was on strike. His dismissal off the first ball seemed to signal Pakistan’s end. But Junaid Khan picked up a single, and thereafter Afridi’s brace of sixes made the game what it was.
In the beginning, Pakistan’s pursuit was given the right thrust by Ahmed Shehzad and Sharjeel Khan. But, from 70 for no loss, Pakistan lost four wickets for 43 runs.
Mishra, playing his first match of the tournament, operated smoothly in tandem with Ashwin. Skipper Virat Kohli promptly attacked with close-in fielders.
K. Dinesh Karthik missed a stumping offered by Maqsood. But, after Hafeez and Maqsood left, Pakistan’s chances went southwards.
It took Afridi’s bravado, with a little help from Umar Gul, to set things right.
Earlier, put into bat, India's innings didn’t suffer from the early inertia that has bogged it all tournament.
Rohit churned out his strokes, each of which had an arresting visual quality. The defiant pull came first up; two seconds after Gul had delivered the ball, it was in the stands.
In the meanwhile, Gul sent back Kohli in the manner he has taken most of his wickets recently — the ball’s trampoline bounce and outward movement thwarted his attempted glide. After Rohit and Rahane settled into consolidation-mode, the former was out to a scoop-pull. Hafeez and Sharjeel Khan, running for the catch, collided. The catch was nevertheless completed.
Rahane, too, soon departed, and Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik came together when Ajmal and Hafeez were laying a spin-siege.
Karthik, however, squandered the start to sweep one straight to short fine-leg. Ravindra Jadeja, in his 100th match, was presented with a few gifts. When on seven, he was struck low on the back leg, but umpire Nigel Llong didn’t budge.
Later, Jadeja received another reprieve as Hafeez dropped a sitter off his own bowling.
After Rayudu's exit, the Saurashtra all-rounder bludgeoned Gul and Ajmal.
The umpiring continued to remain patchy as Bruce Oxendford didn’t spot Ashwin’s edge to the ’keeper.
Thereafter, Jadeja completed his 50 even as India made 77 runs in the last 10 overs