Before this edition of Asia Cup began, India had never won a One Day International against Pakistan with more than 20 overs remaining in the second innings. That record came to an end on Wednesday in Dubai when the two sides met in a dead rubber.
Before this Asia Cup, India had never won a ODI against Pakistan with more than eight wickets to spare. That record came to an end on Sunday in Dubai when it looked as if India would coast to a 10-wicket win. Only a momentary lapse of judgement in running between the wickets, with the victory line in sight, put paid to that as Rohit Sharma and Co registered a nine-wicket win.
Two games, two thumping victories.
Continuing the recent trend of lop-sided games between the two sides, the Super Four encounter was another case of one side being way too dominant over the other in all three departments.
Well, four departments, if you add captaincy to batting, bowling and fielding.
India v Pakistan, last 10 results in ODIs
|December 2012, Chennai||Pakistan||6 wickets|
|January 2013, Kolkata||Pakistan||85 runs|
|January 2013, Delhi||India||10 runs|
|June 2013, Birmingham||India||8 wickets|
|March 2014, Dhaka||Pakistan||1 wicket|
|February 2015, Adelaide||India||76 runs|
|June 2017, Birmingham||India||124 runs|
|June 2017, The Oval||Pakistan||180 runs|
|September 2018, Dubai||India||8 wickets (126 balls to spare - biggest win margin for India over Pakistan win in terms of overs remaining)|
|September 2018, Dubai||India||9 wickets (Biggest win margin for India over Pakistan win in terms of wickets remaining)|
Setting themselves up for failure
It took this writer a moment to gather his senses after Sarfaraz Ahmed called it right at the toss and opted to bat first. This was a team that was thoroughly outplayed in the previous against India doing just that, looking woefully out of their depth when batting under the heat and then hardly troubling the Indian batsmen when they came out to bowl under the lights. The trend has been established in the tournament that batting gets significantly easier in the second half, irrespective of whether the chasing team won or lost. And given how the match unfolded, it was shocking to hear Sarfaraz Ahmed say they were targetting a score of 250 to be competitive in this game. Well, guess what? They scored 237 and the match ended before Pakistan finished bowling their 40th over.
This is not even a case of criticising a decision in hindsight. Even before the match began, Kevin Pietersen and Aamir Sohail were flabbergasted by Pakistan’s call and the reasoning behind it. If the ultimate idea was to help out a batting unit that is struggling for form, then surely batting at a time when batting gets easier was the better option?
If the decision to bat first was bizarre, the top order’s approach to block and block was questionable, even if you could understand the intention to not lose early wickets. But after seeing off the initial burst from India’s new ball bowlers, Pakistan, so to speak, pulled a Pakistan. If the first wicket was down to MS Dhoni’s incredible ability to read the game, the second and third were gifts to India’s cause. Fakhar Zaman chose not to review a LBW decision after he gloved one to his pads while falling over awkwardly. Babar Azam, the No 2 ranked batsman in the world, ran himself out after backing up too far. And just like that, the patient start to avoid losing early wickets turned into a horrible miscalculation.
Sample this: In the first 17 overs of the innings, Pakistan faced 11 overs worth of dot balls and lost their top three batsmen.
Credit where credit’s due
From there on, Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz built a busy, priceless 107-run partnership to take Pakistan to a position of strength, to be in a position where they could push on at the death and pose a stiff target for India.
When they look back at the game, the only area where Pakistan could, perhaps, tell themselves ‘it’s alright, we couldn’t have done anything about that’ it was the last eight overs of their innings when they came up against an inspired Jasprit Bumrah. In his final four overs, Bumrah conceded just 16 runs and picked up two wickets, to ensure Pakistan didn’t even reach their minimum target of 250, after being 169/4 at the end of 40 overs.
A look at the hive of balls at the batsmen’s foot will tell you how good he was at the death.
Once the well-set Malik’s wicket came in a fortuitous mannner — the batsman getting a fine edge down the leg side to the wicket-keeper — Bumrah dominated rest of the lower order batsmen with his accurate yorkers and cleverly disguised slower ones. Yuzvendra Chahal and Bhuvneshwar Kumar chipped in a few good overs but it was the Bumrah show to wrap up Pakistan’s innings and they couldn’t do much about handling him.
Listless effort on the field
You don’t offer Rohit Sharma a second chance, let alone a third and a fourth, in an ODI. The Indian captain could have been dismissed in the first over when Shadab Khan at point reacted late to an uppish square drive. If that could be excused as a tough chance, Imam-ul-haq should be made to run rounds of the ground for dropping a sitter when Rohit was on 14. Shaheen Afridi’s initiation to Pakistan cricket couldn’t have been more despairing — four catches dropped off his bowling in his first two matches. After the youngster’s impressive initial burst, there was no question posed by the Pakistan bowling unit who, instead, erred in their lengths repeatedly. It was typified by Shadab Khan who seemed intent on bowling short to Rohit when he knows how good the Indian captain is when it comes to pulling and cutting.
Throughout the innings, there was no clear attempt made to disrupt the ease with which the Indian openers were scoring their runs. The lines and lengths remained pedestrian, the field placements uninspiring and the fielding, ordinary. Rohit would receive another reprieve late in his innings but by then, he and Dhawan had already done the damage.
In the end, the scoreboard will tell you Indian batsmen and bowlers were miles ahead of their Pakistan counterparts. The scoreboard won’t tell you, but the fielding of the two sides was similarly apart in class while Rohit Sharma out-thought Sarfaraz Ahmed as the captain from the word go. If you were an Indian fan, Sunday’s match could have hardly gone any better. If you were hoping for a good, competitive game of cricket, however, then Pakistan ensured that didn’t happen by repeatedly shooting themselves in their foot.