Hardik Pandya helps India strike first blow against Pakistan in Asia Cup 2022

India avenge T20 World Cup loss as old rivals return to Dubai International Stadium

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Nothing will banish the memory of that night last year when Pakistan all but expelled India from the 2021 T20 World Cup with a 10-wicket thrashing in Dubai.

But, 308 days later, India exacted at least a semblance of retribution as they inflicted the first blow on their neighbours in the DP World Asia Cup of 2022.

The two sides will probably meet again in this competition. The scars India inflicted in their five-wicket triumph at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday night will sting for some time yet, even if they do not run quite so deep as those they suffered themselves last year.

This time around, it was far from so one-sided. India made all the running, but by the end they needed Hardik Pandya to drag them to what had become a nervy last-over victory.

The regular first-over headline act was absent from the field of play. Shaheen Afridi was watching on from a VIP box this time, as he is incapacitated by a posterior crucial ligament injury.

Even in his absence, both innings crackled into life. Bhuvneshwar Kumar was tasked with sending down the first set of six this time around.

He may have been some way short of the show-stopper Shaheen delivered last year, when Pakistan shocked India at the same stadium.

But it was still an event that included two reviews and a boundary. Mohammed Rizwan was reprieved after reviewing the second ball of the game, having initially been given out lbw.

India lost their own review on the last ball when they felt – wrongly – Rizwan had edged behind.

Rizwan rode his luck, but his bat was nowhere near as toasty as in that game last year, when he and Babar Azam savaged India to the tune of a 10-wicket win.

Babar went for 10, bounced out in Bhuvneshwar’s second over. Each of Pakistan’s top five batters fell to short deliveries.

Rizwan lasted the longest of them, but was never fluent. He made 43 from 42 balls before chipping Pandya to Avesh Khan, one of three victims for the Indian all-rounder.

Bhuvneshwar was the pick of India’s bowling as he ended with four wickets, but he reckoned his side had conceded “10-20 runs” more than they might have, as Pakistan reached 147 all out.

Shahnawaz Dahani, their No 11, was dropped by Rohit Sharma on the first ball of the last over when the score was 136. Pakistan eked out 11 more before Arshdeep Singh rearranged Dahani’s stumps.

When the sides turned around, Naseem Shah had Shaheen on his feet in the stands, toasting the excellence of his first over bowling in T20 international cricket.

The debutant fast bowler dismissed KL Rahul off the second ball of India’s innings. He saw Virat Kohli dropped by a diving Fakhar Zaman at slip off the fourth. Off the sixth, a huge appeal to have Rohit caught behind was turned down.

It infused Pakistan with belief that might have been sapped after they finished with a score that had felt under par.

Naseem’s contribution later in the innings was immense, too, battling through the pain of cramp. By the end, he could barely stand, let alone project the ball down the pitch.

At no point did India find scoring easy. Virat Kohli spent 34 deliveries at the crease, but managed just 35. He and Rohit both went in identical fashion – holing out to Iftikhar Ahmed on the boundary, off consecutive deliveries from Mohammed Nawaz’s left-arm spin.

Ravindra Jadeja also made 35, carrying India to the point of victory before he, too, was bowled by Nawaz off the first ball of the last over.

Pandya, though, was not to be denied. The all-rounder lashed an unbeaten 33 from 17 balls, and settled it when he hit the fourth ball of the last over across the ropes for six.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 7:33 AM
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