CRICKET / Pakistan batsmen restricted by some tight bowling by the spinners

India beat Pakistan by seven wickets in the first Super 10 match of the ICC World Twenty20 at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium on Friday.

India scored 131 for three in 18.3 overs in reply to Pakistan’s 130 for seven, with Virat Kohli top-scoring with an unbeaten 36, and Suresh Raina making 35 not out. The two put on 66 for the fourth wicket to see India through.

It was never fully obvious whether India or Pakistan had the greater support. Both teams were cheered fervidly, both sets of players hooted for and rooted for. Theirs is a curious rivalry in this land, bound deeply, as all three nations are, by history. Either way, it made for a crackling, fizzing opening night’s atmosphere at the ICC World Twenty20.

India won the toss and inserted Pakistan in, perhaps mindful that dew might come to influence the game. M.S. Dhoni opted for a third frontline spinner in Amit Mishra, ahead of Varun Aaron.  It was a move that was to pay off.

Man-of-the-match Mishra, playing only the second T20 international of his career, and that too after nearly four years, returned figures of two for 22 from his four overs. It exemplified a fine, all-round bowling performance, Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin similarly frugal, as India limited Pakistan to 130 for seven in 20 overs.

Pakistan’s batsmen appeared to freeze at the wicket, never imposing themselves to any good degree.  Kamran Akmal promised much when he struck two early boundaries.

But, no sooner had he scored the second, he lost his wicket to an avoidable run out. The ball had trickled away to the leg-side off the pads when Akmal hared out of the crease; the non-striker Ahmed Shehzad turned him back halfway, leaving him stranded while Bhuvneshwar Kumar brought the stumps down from close range.

Shehzad sought to compensate for it, thumping R. Ashwin down the wicket for four. The skipper Mohammad Hafeez and he ground out runs without really threatening to break free. Hafeez attempted to up the rate and was fortunate when he was reprieved by Yuvraj Singh at deep mid-wicket. The fielder had to run in but it was a catch that could have been taken.

Hafeez perished soon after, however, caught at deep cover off Jadeja, who had struck in his first over. Shehzad followed the captain indoors, stumped off a dipping, spinning, dream of a leg-break from Mishra. It left Pakistan at 47 for three in the ninth over, stumbling and going nowhere.

Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik then steadied the ship, adding 50 runs in the next seven overs. It was not spectacular stuff, but it hauled Pakistan, at least temporarily, out of trouble. Umar Akmal struck two boundaries off Yuvraj, who did not return after his one over.

Malik hit what was to be one of only two sixes in the innings, dumping Mishra beyond the sightscreen, before he was dropped by Bhuvneshwar at mid-wicket. Malik lasted only two more balls, though, holing out to long off.

The younger Akmal took a similar path back to the dressing room, caught trying to club Mohammed Shami out of the ground. Shahid Afridi arrived to enormous cheers from the assembled crowd, eager no doubt to witness a reprise of his efforts from the Asia Cup encounter. He disappointed, tamely held on the leg-side boundary for eight.

Pakistan was stuttering at 114 for six with seven balls left and it was due to Sohaib Maqsood that the team finished with a workable score. Maqsood dismissed an attempted yorker from Shami for four, just after biffing him over long-off.

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