Scorecard | Coverage dispute
BANGALORE: Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik pulled Pakistan out of their usual state of collapse with timely half-centuries, giving the team the first Twenty20 by five wickets in a match of flared tempers, at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday night.
Pakistan looked set to slide down the slippery slope after skipper Hafeez and Malik had resurrected them from debutant Bhuvaneshwar Kumar's triple strike with a 106-run partnership in under 15 overs. But Hafeez's dismissal at the fag end of the pursuit pegged the visitors back, as a tempestuous Ishant Sharma and Ashok Dinda bowled the 18th and 19th overs for just two and four runs respectively.
The visitors were left to garner 10 runs off Ravindra Jadeja's last over. The left-arm spinner kept it tight on the first three deliveries, but on the fourth the well-set Malik tore into a length ball, gaining the six required with one fell blow and two balls to spare. It was India's part-timers who lost the game. The frontline pacers bowled 12 overs for 58 and five wickets, while the pie-chuckers conceded a wicket-less 75 in 7.4. Bhuvaneshwar had a dream debut, his swing bowling netting him figures of 4-0-9-3.
See saw battle
The match vacillated ceaselessly for almost its entire 40-over length. Debutant Bhuvaneshwar Kumar had Pakistan reeling on 12/3 in three overs after India - sent in to bat - had endured a collapse of their own to set a target of 134. The 22-year-old from Uttar Pradesh struck in his first over and extracted two more in his third, as the visitors made heavy weather of the chase. The first to go was Nasir Jamshed (2). The left-handed opener was set up by several that swung away before one came menacingly in to disturb his stumps. Bhuvaneshwar lured Ahmad Shahzad (5) into a drive and a consequent edge; and then swung another one searingly from wide outside off into Umar Akmal's middle stump for a duck.
It was here that skipper Hafeez (who was given a life on 33 when the umpire ruled him not out following a valid caught behind appeal) took over. In the company of 'India's son-in-law', Shoaib, Hafeez took Pakistan to the doorstep of victory. He began with a four cracked off Ashok Dinda, waded into part-timer Virat Kohli, and tonked sixes of Yuvraj and Jadeja, the second of which gave him his half-century in 40 balls.
Having biffed Ishant to the fence twice, Hafeez succumbed to the upper cut in the same over, caught at third man for 61, Pakistan still needing 16 from 17 balls. More drama followed. Malik, who had played safe until then, erupted into a chancy upper cut that was taking magnificently by Jadeja running back from point. But after consultation with the man upstairs the delivery was declared a no-ball for height. Ishant was furious and his temper knew no bounds when he beat new man Kamran Akmal on successive balls. The two two met mid pitch to exchange pleasantries and had to be forcibly separated by the umpires.
Ishant had the last laugh. In the second last over, Kamran slashed Dinda straight into the tall fast bowler's hands at third man, and Ishant let loose a torrent of profanity. Dinda managed to complete a clean 19th over - conceding just 4 - leaving Pakistan 10 to win off Jadeja's last, Shahid Afridi and Malik in the middle. As it happened, Malik's heavy strike handed Pakistan the evening's honours.
India suffered a shocking collapse after a silken Ajinkya Rahane and a scratchy Gambhir had added 77 for the opening wicket. They lost nine wickets for 47 runs as Pakistan's varied attack came back strongly to dominate the last eight overs. Umar Gul and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal were the architects of the comeback and the 7ft-1 inch debutant Mohammad Irfan - who had harassed the happiness out of Gambhir early on - caught the eye with his effortless bounce and carry.
Rahane (42) hogged the intitial stand, lacing drives through the off side, the ball pinging off his bat like hail off a windscreen. He picked Ajmal for an exquisite six over extra cover- his preferred area of attack - and it was there again where he perished. Going to clear the region once too often, Rahane holed out to the man - Afridi posted there for the very purpose.
Gambhir looked distinctly uncomfortable against the gargantuan Irfan, but as as been his mien in the last few innings managed to scratch his way to 43 - the runs including a brutal premeditated six over mid wicket off Gul. But again, Gambhir was out the way he has looked most vulnerable - aside from the off side prod - of late. The southpaw was short of his ground going for a tight second, Sohail Tanvir's throw from the fence catching him inches adrift of the crease.
Irfan was rewarded in his last over. Virat Kohli had attepmted an ugly, unsuccessful slogs off the two previous balls, perished trying to reprise the rubbish, edging a wide pull to Kamran Akmal behind the wicket. Yuvraj Singh began magnificently with a slog-swept six against Afridi but gave his wicket away to Gul: a tame pull off a slowish leg-cutter that was held comfortable at mid wicket. Yuvraj's scalp was sandwiched between two burst of Ajmal magic. The leading wicket-taker in Twenty20 Internationals removed MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina - both bowled - to push India into the danger zone at 122/6.
So accurate was Ajmal that the pressure resulted in another wicket - Rohit Sharma's run out. Gul returned to clean up the mess, taking two in the 19th over. Jadeja, in the side for R. Ashwin, succumbed to sharp bounce outside the off stump, while Ishant, Parwinder Awana's replacement, was castled by a trademark yorker. India's woefully insufficient score was lent some bite by Bhuvaneshwar's triple strike, but Pakistan's middle order found their range just in time. and then tided over a potential cave in to register a last-over win.