Hafeez-inspired chase by Pakistan not good enough
There is this searing image associated with Yuvraj Singh — down on one knee, whirling up the bat and pumping a fist.
That picture of pure adrenaline and unbridled joy was snapped up at the Sardar Patel Stadium here during that unforgettable summer of 2011 after the southpaw scripted India’s World Cup quarterfinal victory over Australia.
Ominously, on a feverish Friday here despite the nip in the winter skies, Yuvraj repeatedly went down on his knee and his bat scythed an extravagant arc to rain sixes and pummel Pakistan into submission.
Yuvraj’s 72 (36b, 4x4, 7x6) set India on a strong pedestal and M.S. Dhoni’s men used that springboard to win the concluding Twenty20 of the two-match series.
India’s 11-run victory ensured that the ‘Men in Blue’ levelled the series. Chasing India’s 192 for five, Pakistan scored 181 for seven.
The visiting team’s openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad set a brisk pace and had registered 48 runs in five overs when R. Ashwin, who replaced Ravindra Jadeja in the playing eleven, applied the brakes from the sixth. Dhoni employed Suresh Raina from the other end and spin proved to be an unwelcome speed-breaker for Pakistan.
Ashwin, after seeing Dhoni drop Jamshed, nailed the batsman immediately and Yuvraj sold the dummy to Shehzad. The experienced duo of Mohammad Hafeez (55) and Umar Akmal joined hands to ensure that Pakistan stayed in the hunt.
Hafeez revved the tempo with two consecutive sixes off Ashwin. The Pakistan skipper then whipped Ashok Dinda and though the latter castled an ambitious Umar, the visitors remained alive in their pursuit as long as Hafeez was at the crease.
The prospect of scripting a come-from-behind triumph ebbed away for Pakistan once Dinda and Bhuvneshwar Kumar prised out key wickets and India stayed on course for a well-deserved victory.
Earlier, Hafeez’s luck with the toss continued and he replicated his Bangalore-strategy of electing to field.
The Indian openers display urgency on a slow track. Ajinkya Rahane was the first off the blocks before Gautam Gambhir tucked into the speedsters.
Gambhir hits out
Sohail Tanvir was driven and once Umar Gul came on, the opener slashed one, gave the charge to slam the next over point before finding a streaky hook race to the fine-leg fence.
Gul however foxed Gambhir with a slower delivery and then induced a miscued pull from Rahane while India was placed at a tentative 53 for two in seven overs.
Virat Kohli stepped in, promised much through three delectable fours, with a straight drive off Mohammad Irfan being the pick.
Kohli also had his lucky break when Shahid Afridi grassed a tough chance at short mid-wicket but the youngster blew away the opportunity to build something constructive.
Yuvraj wristed towards short fine-leg, Kohli called for the single and ran more in hope as Saeed Ajmal’s throw knocked down the stumps.
Yuvraj then took centre-stage in his own inimitable aggressive style.
He knelt down to hoist both Afridi and Ajmal over mid-wicket for a six each and along with Dhoni, lent shape to a lightning-quick 97-run fourth-wicket partnership off just 44 deliveries.
The Indian skipper for once was overshadowed and though he pocketed three consecutive fours off Gul, it was Yuvraj who set a blistering tempo.
Ajmal suffered the most in the penultimate over as the southpaw struck three sixes. Gul did scalp Yuvraj and Dhoni in the last over but by then India had posted an imposing total.
India: G. Gambhir lbw b Gul 21 (11b, 4x4), A. Rahane c & b Gul 28 (26b, 4x4), V. Kohli (run out) 27 (22b, 3x4), Yuvraj c Malik b Gul 72 (36b, 4x4, 7x6), M.S. Dhoni b Gul 33 (23b, 4x4), S. Raina (not out) 1 (1b), Rohit Sharma (not out) 4 (1b); Extras (lb-5, nb-1): 6; Total (for five wkts. in 20 overs): 192.
Fall of wickets: 1- 44 (Gambhir), 2-53 (Rahane), 3-88 (Kohli), 4-185 (Yuvraj), 5-187 (Dhoni).
Pakistan bowling: Irfan 4-0-20-0, Tanvir 4-0-44-0, Gul 4-0-37-4, Ajmal 4-0-42-0, Afridi 3-0-33-0, Hafeez 1-0-11-0.
Pakistan: N. Jamshed c Kohli b Ashwin 41 (32b, 4x4, 1x6), A. Shehzad st. Dhoni b Yuvraj 31 (29b, 3x4, 1x6), U. Akmal b Dinda 24 (17b, 1x4, 1x6), M. Hafeez c Raina b Dinda 55 (26b, 6x4, 3x6), S. Afridi c Rohit b Bhuvneshwar 11 (5b, 1x4, 1x6), K. Akmal c Kohli b Dinda 5 (3b, 1x4), S. Malik (not out) 3 (3b), U. Gul c Rahane b Ishant 5 (5b, 1x4); Extras (lb-2, w-4): 6. Total (for seven wkts. in 20 overs): 181.
Fall of wickets: 1-74 (Jamshed), 2-84 (Shehzad), 3-146 (U. Akmal), 4-163 (Afridi), 5-168 (Hafeez), 6-172 (K. Akmal), 7- 181 (Gul).
India bowling: Bhuvneshwar 4-0-46-1, Ishant 4-0-34-1, Dinda 4-0-36-3, Ashwin 4-0-28-1, Raina 2-0-12-0, Yuvraj 2-0-23-1.
Man-of-the-match: Yuvraj Singh.