Colombo: Batting consultant Javed Miandad was on the way back home, but his tips did the trick for Pakistan. In Monday’s warm-up match against India, at least.
Pakistan chased 186, by no means an easy target, with five deliveries remaining. Had there been a MoM award, it would have gone to Kamran Akmal, who has been in the news for the wrong reasons in recent years.
The 30-year-old ’keeper-batsman, rated very highly by the late Bob Woolmer, smashed 92 not out (off only 50 balls) to ensure a five-wicket win. That seemed improbable when Pakistan were 84 for four at the half-way stage and, then, five down for 91.
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It was an extraordinary recovery, which should raise Pakistan’s confidence as high as the imposing twin towers of the World Trade Centre here.
With flexibility allowing 12 to ‘play’, but 11 to bat and bowl, India used five specialist bowlers. As many as three — Lakshmipathy Balaji, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh — went for at least 40 runs apiece.
The inability to defend 185 for three is bound to give captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (who’d won the toss) and coach Duncan Fletcher a headache. But, then, nobody really regards our bowling to be anywhere near the best in the business.
“It was a testing ground for us... Our fast bowlers gave away too many runs in the initial overs and we didn’t bowl the last few well,” rued Dhoni.
Very pleased was Pakistan’s captain, Mohammed Hafeez. “Winning against India is always special... The boys showed a positive attitude... The way Kamran played was exceptional and (Shoaib) Malik showed what experience is all about... Things look good.”
Hafeez was looking for “momentum” and his team got just that on the eve of the World Twenty20’s fourth edition.
Malik, a former captain, was not out on 37 (18 deliveries). He more than matched Akmal, who treated India’s bowlers so contemptuously.
The Akmal-Malik show put in the shade the excellent contributions from Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and ‘birthday boy’ Ravichandran Ashwin, who turned 26.
Kohli has been having an astonishing year and he remained not out on 75. Sharma scored 56 and has regained confidence, which is good news for India. Ashwin upstaged Saeed Ajmal, picking up four wickets for 23.
The young batsmen added a handsome 127 for the third wicket, the day’s best at the R.Premadasa Stadium. Akmal and Malik put on 95, without being separated, for the sixth wicket.
At breakfast (at the Taj Samudra), buttering brown toast, Kohli told The Telegraph: “One looks forward to playing Pakistan, but I’m not getting too worked up.”
That, perhaps, is the most sensible approach. High on intensity, but not getting consumed by one opponent.
Kohli, incidentally, was lucky not to be felled by a Mohammed Sami beamer. The bowler immediately apologised, though.
Clearly, Dhoni and the rest must forget this setback and prepare for the first real test. Not against Afghanistan on Wednesday, but on Sunday, when holders England will be the opponents.
There’s no Kevin Pietersen, who’d been outstanding in the last edition (2010, in the West Indies), but England are out to make a point.
“It was one of those days... A bad day when things didn’t come together... The bowlers didn’t click together... It’s a matter of one game and we’ll be right there,” Sharma said,
adding that he’d worked hard on his “batting and fitness.”
Well, in T20, the margin for error is even thinner.
Footnote: Everyone is cashing in on the World Twenty20, premier hotels included. Not that there aren’t offers. At the airport’s duty free, for example, is a “Twenty20 Wine Bonanza” — three bottles for $20!