The match was curtailed to 18 overs per side, but that did not in any way detract from the game itself. Kudos to the crowd at the Eden Gardens who remained optimistic in the midst of torrential rainfall.
However, it was yet another delightful day in the office for the Indians and a day of despair and agony for Pakistan as India, courtesy a Virat Kohli masterclass, romped home without much fuss. Let’s have a look at how things panned out.
#1 Pre-match buildup – The “Mauka (Opportunity) Man”
Ever since the 2015 World Cup match between India and Pakistan, Vishal Malhotra – The “Mauka” man has become a household name. During the World Cup in Austalia, with over 40 lakh views on his ‘Mauka-Mauka’ video, he was the talk of the town.
In the next version of the advertisement, Vishal is seen urging the Pakistan team and Shahid Afridi to perform to potential and break their ten-match losing streak against Team India. However, things did not quite go according to plan and Pakistan slumped to another defeat to remain winless in World Cup games against India in 11 attempts.
#2 Subdued, but steady start for Pakistan
From the word go, the Indian bowlers were right on the money, but the Pakistan batsmen weren’t willing to throw their wickets away. The Indian bowlers didn’t let the rival batsmen get off to a flier, but the fact that Pakistan played out 46 balls without a hiccup kept them in the hunt for a respectable score.
The partnership witnessed four boundaries, one of which came from a streaky outside edge off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja. The stand featured a staggering 24 dot balls. Although the likes of Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah and Ravichandran Ashwin weren’t able to run through the openers quickly, runs were kept in check for a substantial time period.
#3 Hardik Pandya’s screamer
Part-timers, often deemed to be ‘Men with Golden Arms’, provide breakthroughs at crucial points and this time it was Suresh Raina who struck first blood for India. It wasn’t the best of deliveries Raina had ever dished out, however, it got the much needed scalp of Nasir Jamshed.
It was a half-tracker from Raina and Jamshed pulled it straight into the hands of Hardik Pandya, who dived full length at long-on to pluck the catch inches above the ground. The ball nearly spilled out of Pandya’s hand, but he somehow managed to latch onto it.
The wicket had Raina’s name written beside it, but it was Pandya’s brilliance in the outfield that truly deserves the spotlight.
#4 Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal – the survivors
While the Indian bowlers were busy grinding down the Pakistan batsmen, two men tried to up the ante with some extravagant strokes. Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal stitched together a stand of 41 runs in 24 balls that injected some sort of momentum into Pakistan’s innings.
Afridi’s demise was a body blow for the Pakistanis and to recover from there, the Men in Green needed to play out of their skins. Akmal and Malik targeted the mid-wicket region to good effect as both of Pakistan’s sixes were scored in that region.
There was a time when Pakistan were struggling to score at even a run a ball, but these two played some powerful strokes to set India a target of 119 in 18 overs.
#5 Early jolts re-ignite Pakistan’s hopes
A required rate of 6.61 from the outset should have looked like bread and butter for the Men in Blue, but that wasn’t the case as they got off to a jittery start. Pakistan, from being down and out, stormed back into the contest in no time through some early wickets.
With the score at 10 in the third over, Rohit Sharma tried to play an uppish drive, but skied it into the hands of Shoaib Malik off the bowling of Mohammad Amir. India’s shaky start didn’t end there as Mohammad Sami castled Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina with successive inside edges.
#6 Kohli bows down to the Master Blaster
After 4.4 overs, India had wobbled to 23 runs for the loss of three wickets and were looking down the barrel in the chase. However, the master of run-chases for India, Virat Kohli, was still at the crease.
Quite characteristic of Kohli, he brought his imperious stroke-making to the fore and erased any chances of a comeback for Pakistan. From oozing confidence, the Pakistani bowlers were left with glum faces as Kohli brought up yet another T20 international fifty in 34 balls.
The highlight was that after accomplishing his half-century, Kohli bowed down to Sachin Tendulkar who was sitting in the stands.
What seemed to be a hard grind for India after the early jolts turned out to be a cakewalk once Kohli took guard.