Asia Cup: Pakistan pacers and India batsmen get thorough workout before washout

Pandya and Kishan score fine fifties while Afridi leads pace onslaught in Pallekele on Saturday

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It was supposed to be a high-octane clash between Pakistan and India in the Asia Cup. And for a fair period, it looked like fans finally got what they had wished for. But the weather had the final say in Pallekele on Saturday as the match between the South Asian rivals was washed out after the first innings.

India batted first on a day that saw several disruptions due to intermittent rain. They were in deep trouble inside the first 15 overs, with Pakistan's opening quicks Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf making life miserable and taking the first four wickets fairly quickly.

But wicketkeeper batsman Ishan Kishan and all-rounder Hardik Pandya stitched together a century stand to breathe life back into the innings, even raising hopes of pushing the score closer to 300.

However, Pakistan's pace bowlers came back in the death overs to put the brakes on the innings, dismissing India for 266 with the fast bowlers taking all 10 wickets.

The No1 ODI team never got to challenge India's total after rain arrived during the innings break and never left.

Earlier, Pakistan fast bowlers showed why they are the most feared in international cricket as they decimated India’s top order.

Left-arm pacer Afridi has become the nemesis of India captain Rohit Sharma. And while the opener played the early overs cautiously, the first rain delay caused enough of a disruption to allow the Pakistan quicks to recalibrate.

After the resumption, Afridi was on target from the word go, getting late movement away from Sharma before bringing one back in to clean bowl the veteran opener.

Virat Kohli too did not have much clue as he was castled pushing at Afridi. Fellow quick Rauf generated considerable pace to breach the defence of the struggling Shubman Gill, while the returning Shreyas Iyer looked good in his brief stay before his pull shot was caught at mid-wicket.

India were 66-4 and had lost their frontline batsmen. It was left to wicketkeeper batsman Kishan and all-rounder Pandya to resurrect the innings.

Once Pakistan’s spinners came on, life became much easier for the two. The left-right combination rotated the strike easily and handled Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz without any trouble. Pakistan’s spinners bowled a total of 21 overs for 133 runs without a wicket.

But as soon as Pakistan’s pacers returned after the middle overs were done with, the team in green were back on top.

Rauf got a tiring Kishan to top-edge a short ball to mid on, after the left-hander had scored a sublime 82 from 81 balls. That ended an enterprising 138-run partnership between the two.

Pandya fell soon after as he too approached a century, deceived by a slower delivery from Afridi.

India lost three quick wickets and looked in danger of folding well before their 50 overs. But a few lusty blows from Jasprit Bumrah pushed the score close to 270, which was a respectable effort.

Afridi finished with 4-35, while Shah took 3-36. Rauf was a bit expensive, giving away 58 in nine overs for three wickets.

Whether that total was enough will never be known. However, both sides will be pleased with the game. India's batsmen got a thorough workout against arguably the best attack in the world. And they gave a good account of themselves.

Pakistan's quicks were outstanding once again. Afridi led the pace charge but it was Shah who impressed the most with his lines and late movement at high pace. Under more helpful conditions, Pakistan's quicks will surely run through most sides.

Updated: September 02, 2023, 7:07 PM