Asia Cup 2023 | Kishan, Hardik and Pakistan pacers shine on a day when the rain has the final say

India and Pakistan are playing against each other after a gap of nearly four years

September 02, 2023 02:50 pm | Updated September 03, 2023 12:41 am IST - Pallekele

Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya are seen during the Asia Cup 2023 one-day international against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2, 2023.

Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya are seen during the Asia Cup 2023 one-day international against Pakistan in Pallekele on September 2, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

Two standout batters. Three pacers spewing venom. And three rain interruptions. All of it culminated in one big disappointment for the scores of fans who flocked the Pallekele International Stadium for the high-voltage Asia Cup clash between India and Pakistan.

Thanks to a persistent drizzle that started towards the end of India’s batting essay, the match officials formally called the game off at 9.52 p.m., 35 minutes before the cut-off for a 20-over chase. By then, the entire outfield had been covered with tarpaulin sheets.

The groundstaff, despite working tirelessly throughout the day, wore a dejected look. So did 20,000-odd fans who stayed back hoping for a thrilling finish. But they had to make do with a topsy-turvy first half that eventually turned futile.

India captain Rohit Sharma had no hesitation in opting to bat after the coin landed in his favour but it turned to be a far from an ideal start. As soon as the 35-minute rain break after 4.2 overs ended, Shaheen Shah Afridi set Rohit up with an inswinger that sneaked through his defence on the back of a couple of outswingers.

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Afridi then enjoyed a double delight, with Virat Kohli playing him on after a crisp square drive. When Shreyas Iyer pulled Haris Rauf only to see Fakhar Zaman latch on to a sharp catch at midwicket, at 48 for three, India was in danger of wilting under the big-match pressure.

In came Ishan Kishan at No. 5 for the first time in ODIS. Then there was a brief 20-minute rain interruption and soon afterwards, a shaky Shubman Gill played Haris Rauf on to the stumps.

At 66 for four, Ishan and Hardik Pandya, the vice-captain, got together and the left-right combine looked effortless once spin was introduced.

Riding on Ishan and Hardik’s 138-run partnership — dominated by Ishan’s 82 (81b, 9x4, 2x6) — India put on a respectable total of 266 on the board before folding up in the penultimate over.

Also read: Asia Cup 2023: India vs Pakistan | Near-empty stands, lack of buzz raise eyebrows

Had it not been for the partnership, India could well have been bundled out much earlier. Barring a top-edged pull early on that was misjudged at deep square leg, Ishan played a fluent knock. The left-handed batter was brutal against spinners but showed his intent as soon as replacing Shreyas who departed while playing a pull shot off Rauf.

With Ishan on song, Hardik took a back seat and started waging a long handle only after Ishan’s dismissal in the 38th over. But just like the pocket dynamo, Hardik too perished in the 80s, leading to a collapse. India lost the last five wickets for 27 runs.

Just when Jasprit Bumrah guided India’s total past 260 with a little cameo, the heavens opened up again and the steady drizzle persisted until the game was abandoned.

The result meant Pakistan became the first team to qualify for the Super Four, while India will have to beat Nepal on Monday to make the grade.

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