Colombo: India needed a win to keep their chances of making their first ICC World Twenty20 semi-finals since the inaugural edition in 2007, and after the hammering at the hands of Australia bounced back brilliantly with a nine-wicket win over Pakistan on Sunday. After their five-bowler plan flopped miserably on Friday, India reverted to Virender Sehwag and L Balaji and both played parts in victory over Pakistan, who now need to beat Australia on October 2 to progress past the Super Eights.
Pakistan’s brittle batting has been overshadowed by some brilliant bowling for long, but against their old foes India – who have yet to lose to Pakistan in ICC tournaments dating back to 1992 – they contrived to be bowled out for 128, their lowest total in tournament history. As in the last game against South Africa, Pakistan’s batting was poor but the difference this time was that there was no batsman to stick around, or anyone to inject crucial runs down the order. Their cause was not helped by a slew of dropped catches, three of which were off India’s anchorman Virat Kohli whose unbeaten 78 closed the deal with 18 balls remaining.
A 13-run opening over from Zaheer Khan hinted that Pakistan were going to bolt out of the blocks, but India struck back with five wickets inside the first ten overs. Irfan Pathan removed Imran Nazir for 8 with his second ball and Shahid Afridi, promoted to No. 3, pulled L Balaji out to deep square leg after also getting a rousing start.
It was the lack of pace that really worked for India, however. Yuvraj Singh struck in his first two overs, getting Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal caught behind as Pakistan slumped to 49 for 4 in the ninth over. Their captain, Mohammad Hafeez, appeared ready to play out the innings until a silly shot against Kohli saw him bowled for 15 off 28 balls.
Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik averted a crisis from 59 for 5 with a 47-run stand in 33 balls punctuated by deft cutting and tucking off the pads, but crucially R Ashwin extracted the pair before they could cut loose. With five overs to go, however, Malik spooned a catch to Rohit Sharma for a brisk 28 and in Ashwin’s next over, the 18th of the innings, Umar Akmal heaved out to Suresh Raina in the deep for 21.
A fine throw from Yuvraj at backward point did for Yasir Arafat, and Pakistan’s innings ended with a whimper as Balaji plucked out Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal in consecutive deliveries – Dhoni taking the catches to finish with four dismissals. Pakistan scored just 23 runs from their last 28 ball, losing five wickets in the process.
India’s reply began with a jolt when Gautam Gambhir chipped a return catch to the 20-year-old left-arm spinner Raza Hasan, and India managed just 11 runs from three overs. Sehwag got the chase purring with two boundaries off Gul, followed by a glance off Hasan. Without any risks, India took 36 for 1 off the Powerplays.
The introduction of Afridi brought the aggression out of Kohli, who hit the former Pakistan captain for a six in his first over but also edged a four past Kamran on 27. In the same over, Sehwag chipped a high return catch to Afridi that was grassed. In the next, Kohli was dropped at backward point by a diving Umar. Pakistan’s ground fielding was poor as well, with overthrows and slides in vain adding to the Kohli-Sehwag partnership of 69.
By the time Pakistan held on to something – Gul catching a lofted Sehwag drive just inside the long-off boundary off Afridi – India were beyond the point of jitters. Kohli and Yuvraj finished the chase with ease, thanks to a 54-run stand in 6.3 overs.
Brief scores: India 129 for 1 in 17 overs (Virat Kohli 78*, Virender Sehwag 29) beat Pakistan 128 in 19.4 overs (Shoaib Malik 28; L Balaji 3/22, R Ashwin 2/16, Yuvraj Singh 2/16) by nine wickets.