Asia Cup 2022: Mohammad Nawaz the unlikely star as Pakistan bounce back to stun India

All-rounder turns game with the bat as rivals play out another thriller in Dubai

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From a cast list including some of the most celebrated names in all of cricket, Mohammad Nawaz emerged the unlikely hero as Pakistan claimed a gripping win over India in Dubai.

It was a surprise to many when the left-handed all-rounder was promoted to No 4 in the order with Pakistan labouring in pursuit of 182 to win their Asia Cup Super 4 encounter.

Pakistan had lost at the hands of their close rivals seven days earlier, and appeared set to do the same as they were 63 for two in the ninth over.

Nawaz’s batting is popularly regarded as secondary to his spin bowling, but he picked the perfect time to prove himself as a batter of great substance.

The 28-year-old laced 42 in just 20 balls to get his side back on course, as the two side thrilled another packed house, with 24,511 making it through rush hour to the game.

Although he departed without the job being completed, the impetus was inexorably in his side's favour.

Mohammed Rizwan, who made 71 in 51 balls, carried Pakistan ever closer, despite batting through the pain of a knee injury sustained while keeping wicket in the first innings.

Then Khushdil Shah and Ithikhar Ahmed set the seal on a five-wicket win in the final over, a result which moves Pakistan two points closer to Sunday's final at the same ground.

For so much of this encounter, India had appeared in charge. In the first match between these two sides a week earlier, India had made inroads into the Pakistan batting in the first innings by way of their quicks bowling short.

On a faster, truer pitch this time around, Pakistan’s own fast-bowling battery – each of whom possesses searing pace – found the going tough.

Rohit Sharma ignited the innings with a trademark pull off the front foot for six, off the last ball Naseem Shah sent down in the opening over.

It was the cue for a blazing start to the match. He and KL Rahul shared 54 for the first wicket, before captain Rohit fell to the first ball of the sixth over.

And so, in contrast to the preceding meeting, it was Pakistan’s slow bowlers who applied the brakes as India attempted to set a huge target.

Nawaz, with his left-arm spinner, went for a miserly 25 from his four overs, and picked up the wicket of the in-form Suryakumar Yadav.

Shadab Khan’s leg-spin accounted for Rahul and Rishabh Pant, as Pakistan dragged themselves back into the game.

Virat Kohli, thought, did not allow the strong start to go to waste. The former captain top-scored for his side with 60, which was his second successive half-century in the competition.

It meant enough to him for him to kiss the badge on his shirt after reaching the milestone with a six off the last delivery Mohammed Hasnain sent down.

His stay was only ended in the final over by a stunning direct-hit run out by Asif Ali – a piece of work that was reminiscent of Martin Guptill’s portentous run out of MS Dhoni in the 2019 World Cup.

With just two balls left to bowl, Pakistan will have felt they finally had India just where they wanted them. Then the momentum shifted again.

Fakhar Zaman, who is generally regarded as one of Pakistan’s leading fielders, made two abject mistakes in the final two deliveries. It meant Pakistan were chasing seven more than they might have been, as India closed on 181 for seven.

Zaman owed his team, but his effort with the bat was lukewarm. He made 15 and chewed up 18 balls in doing so.

His departure brought Nawaz to the crease, and the blitz which he brought about was decisive. By the time he went, Pakistan were 136 for three midway through the 16th over.

At no stage was it easy, though. They needed seven of the last over, bowled by Arshdeep Singh, who had only recently dropped Asif in what appeared a seminal point of the death overs.

When he trapped Asif lbw with two still required off two balls, nerves were frayed. But Ifthikhar struck the winning runs off the first ball he faced.

Updated: September 04, 2022, 7:22 PM
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