Colombo: An exceptional 90 off just 52 balls from Kamran Akmal denied India their second straight warm-up win and took Pakistan to a victory with five deliveries to spare at the P Sara Oval on Monday.
Chasing 186, Pakistan lost two wickets in the fourth over but Kamran was able to add crucial runs with his captain Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the stand with the latter proving the most decisive in the eventual outcome. The pair was joined at 91 for 5 and proceeded to add 95 runs in just 72 balls, with Kamral collecting his sixth six off a rank full toss from Irfan Pathan in the final over.
After a substandard effort in the field, Pakistan needed a strong start and their openers provided it before the loss of Imran Nazir and Naser Jamshed in the space of three balls. Nazir was caught by Suresh Raina off R Ashwin’s third delivery and off the fifth MS Dhoni affected a smart run out to catch a sprawling Jamshed just short of his crease.
Hafeez (38 off 29 balls) and Kamran, however, did not hold back and rattled off 51 runs in 5.4 overs to lift Pakistan. Kamran was aggressive from the onset, hitting Harbhajan Singh’s first ball over mid-off for six and hitting both him and Yuvraj Singh out of the attack with a series of fine shots.
Another double-wicket Ashwin over, the tenth of the chase, threatened to undo the good work. Hafeez picked out Rohit Sharma at long-on and two balls later Shahid Afridi flat-batted to Zaheer Khan at long-off for 0. Ashwin added a third when Umar Akmal popped back a return catch, and India appeared on top.
But Kamran, who by this stage had eased to 36 off 22 balls, refused to buckle. Zaheer was clubbed for successive sixes in a 19-run 15th over, and Harbhajan’s final ball also disappeared over the figures and left him nursing figures of 0 for 40 in his spell. Malik too was clinical in his hitting and clubbed the last ball of the penultimate over for six to leave Kamran with the task of scoring six from six balls. He needed just one, a shocking delivery from Irfan Pathan that was crashed inside-out over extra cover. Startlingly, Pakistan took 65 runs off the last 37 balls bowled.
This wasn’t what India would have had in mind after scoring 185 for 3 thanks to another excellent hand from the insatiable Virat Kohli and a welcome half-century from Rohit. Having opted to bat, India were given a rousing start from Virender Sehwag who smacked 26 off 14 balls in a 41-run opening stand in 4.4 overs. Sehwag could have been out on 1 but Hafeez at first slip did not react to a thick outside edge, and Sehwag proceeded to hit Sohail Tanvir for six over point five balls later. He then trained his attention on Mohammad Sami, hitting the fast bowler for three fours in his first over.
Gautam Gambhir, passed fit after sustaining a wrist injury on Saturday, was bowled for 10 by Umar Gul to bring to the crease Kohli. His first ball was delectably hit past midwicket for four, setting in motion another fine innings from India’s in-form No. 3. Sehwag was next to go in Saeed Ajmal’s first over, but Rohit walked out and began with good running between the wickets. He and Kohli put on 127 runs at more than ten per over. Rohit’s cutting and driving were especially pleasing as he broke an extended poor run with a robust 40-ball 56. Kohli remained unbeaten on 75 off 47 balls as India powered to 185 for 3.
It wasn’t enough.