As the day game finished under lights, Naser Jamshed shone the brightest. This left-hander made all the right moves at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium here on Sunday.
Indeed, the opener closed out the game for Pakistan. Under pressure, the 23-year-old Jamshed showed equanimity. And when he stroked, he did so with precise feet movement and timing. Crucially for Pakistan, he read the situations capably.
Riding on Jamshed’s 132-ball unbeaten 101 (5x4, 1x6), Pakistan secured a six-wicket victory over India in the first game of the three-match ODI series. Chasing India’s 227 for six on a lively Chepauk wicket and under a cloud cover, Pakistan won with 11 balls remaining.
The chance for India appeared and disappeared in a flash. Jamshed, on 68, cut paceman Ashoke Dinda but Yuvraj Singh at point grassed the catch. The opener piloted Pakistan home.
Pakistan paceman Juniad Khan’s first spell of 5-1-12-4 was as influential.
The left-armer moved the ball away and swung it into the right-handers with compelling precision and switched his line admirably to the southpaws. The Indians struggled to pick his movement.
For India, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s century (113 not out, 125b, 7x4, 3x6) of controlled aggression and power went in vain. The skipper lifted India from a disastrous 29 for five.
Yet, it was Jamshed’s three-figure effort that had the final say.
The left-hander was involved in crucial associations with Younis Khan (58) and Shoib Malik (34 not out). Pakistan was not short of partnerships on a day of fortune swings. It was hardly a rewarding day for India with Virat Kohli suffering what appeared to be a knee injury while bowling.
The host began well on a surface where there was some bounce and movement all day for the pacemen operating with two white balls.
Debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, employing his wrist and harnessing the seam position, swung the ball away and brought it in tellingly under a cloud cover.
Bhuvneshwar became only the second Indian – Sadagopan Ramesh being the first – to strike with his first delivery in ODI cricket.
Mohammad Hafeez, with disastrous consequences, shouldered arms to a big inswinger.
The swing bowler had a vociferous leg-before shout against Azhar Ali turned down off his next ball.
Dhoni asked for a DRS review in half jest and half anguish from behind the stumps to umpire Billie Bowden but Bhuvneshwar soon consumed Azhar by shortening his length. Then, India ran into a road-block.
The 23-year-old Jamshed is a left-hander with possibilities. His cover-drive off Ishant Sharma screamed for attention.
He also cut, flicked and punched with panache and collected his ones and twos with neat placements.
Younis Khan is an experienced campaigner who comprehends the flow of the game. He drove, pulled and swept as the third wicket stand gained momentum.
Gradually, the game slipped away from India with Pakistan punishing the non-specialist bowlers.
With the new ODI rules making it mandatory for teams to have at least five fielders in the 30-yard circle, India should consider including a fifth regular bowler.
The hard-working Dinda strove manfully though and had Younis held at mid-wicket; replays confirmed R. Ashwin’s low catch was clean.
Ishant, then, breached Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s defence with a change of pace but Jamshed and Malik — caught behind off an Ashwin no-ball — took the game away from India.
Earlier, Dhoni, with Suresh Raina (43), collected runs diligently off the spinners.
With the new rules coming into play, hitting over the top held less risks. However, a strong inner ring of five fielders made singles harder to come by.
The Indian captain exploded in climactic stages with a resolute Ashwin (31 not out) in a rousing unbeaten 125-run partnership.
His strong wrists came into play when he flicked and drove with brutal force. This was Power Play by Dhoni.
A batsman’s strength — in Dhoni’s case, the whip — can be his weakness as well and the Indian captain, on 13, was fortunate that Misbah put down an offering at mid-wicket; off-spinner Hafeez was the bowler.
Pakistan’s decision to field was on predictable lines. Play began an hour late but the moisture on the surface meant the ball nipped around. The top and much of the Indian middle-order capitulated.
Apart from creating the left-armer’s angle, Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan forced the batsmen to alter footwork because of the difference in their heights.
Junaid gathers momentum in his run-up and has that crucial balance in his release.
He also bowled on a good length creating doubts in the minds of the batsmen whether to play forward or go back.
Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj made a quick exit, the gap between their bat and pad not enhancing their reputations.
And the underachieving Rohit Sharma, undone by the shorter one, was picked up by a diving Hafeez at third slip. Junaid celebrated.
Pakistan found game-changers at Chepauk.