India maintained their unbeaten run over arch-rivals Pakistan in ICC events, winning a low scoring contest by six wickets. On a pitch where most others found the going tough, Virat Kohli once again stood out as the difference between the two sides, at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. Kohli remained unbeaten on 55 from 37 to lead India to triumph, after India were in trouble having lost three wickets early in the chase of 119. The 61-run fourth wicket partnership between Kohli and Yuvraj Singh set up the hard-fought win for the Indians in a crucial contest after they had been upset by New Zealand.
In a match reminiscent of the Asia Cup clash between the two teams recently, India were again bailed out by Kohli and Yuvraj after beginning poorly. The duo took their time, and rotated the strike early on. On a pitch that was spinning square, Pakistan missed a proper slow blower as Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik could not extract a lot of help. With the contest going tight, Kohli slog swept Malik for a six, the edge carrying over the ropes. He then dragged a full ball through midwicket. In the next over, Yuvraj launched Wahab Riaz over cow corner for six.
Earlier, Mohammad Amir again got Rohit Sharma early, and Mohammad Sami then surprised the Indians by cleaning up the struggling Shikhar Dhawan and Suresh Raina with quick deliveries. At 23 for 3, Pakistan were very much in the contest, but Kohli took it away with another brilliant effort under pressure.
Batting first, Pakistan made a challenging 118 for 5 in 18 overs, thanks in main to a quick 41-run stand for the fourth wicket between Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal, both of whom slammed quick 20s. When Malik joined Akmal at the crease, Pakistan were 60 for 3, having just lost skipper Shahid Afridi, who had promoted himself. But, with the pitch turning square, he struggled, making only 8 from 14. Malik and Akmal however game the team something to bowl at. Play was reduced to 18 overs a side after rain delay, and an unchanged India bowled first after winning the toss.
Akmal and Malik combined to take 15 and 13 runs from the 14th and 15th overs bowled by Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah respectively as Pakistan got some much-needed momentum. Malik first launched a slower ball from Pandya into the deep midwicket stands, and then Akmal blasted one over long-on for the second six of the over. Bumrah then bowled two full tosses to Malik, which were dispatched for fours with disdain towards point and square leg. After the duo were dismissed going for big bits, Bumrah however came back to bowl a yorker and slower-ball filled last over, conceding only 7.
In spite of a slow start, the Pakistan opened batted sensibly, knowing it wasn’t the easiest surfaces to get the big scores. Sharjeel Khan broke the shackles by flicking Ashish Nehra to backward square leg. Ahmed Shehzad then stepped out of the crease and hit Ravichandran Ashwin over wide mid-on. Suresh Raina broke the opening partnership when Sharjeel was brilliantly caught by Pandya, diving forward at mid-on, and banging his head, but holding on. Bumrah then got Shehzad as a hoick across the line went off the edge. India had the upper hand, but Akmal and Malik ensured Pakistan had a score to bowl at -- at least at the halfway stage.
--By A Cricket Correspondent