India wins in bowl-out

India only had to not lose terribly to go through to the next round of the ICC World Twenty20 tournament. An abandoned match against Scotland yesterday meant that India got only the one point, instead of two which most would have expected them to get had they got a chance to play against the minnows and win. This meant that the Indians could not take things lightly against Pakistan in the final group qualifying match (not that they would, considering the nature of the opposition).

It was absolutely crucial that India got off to a good start after being put into bat by Shoaib Malik, so that the mindset would set so as to win the match, rather than save them from slipping down to a net run rate lower than Scotland’s. However, what ensued was exactly what India would not have wanted. Mohammad Asif rocked the Indian top order with a magnificent spell, sending back four batsmen within the first seven overs of the innings. While Gautam Gambhir was caught brilliantly, Virender Sehwag was cleaned up from an inside edge. Yuvraj Singh failed to be the savior for India this time around as he miscued to mid-off, and Dinesh Karthik dragged the ball onto his stumps as well.

Once Asif had bowled his quota of four overs though, front up, the Indians had a chance to resurrect. Robin Uthappa in particular took the charge of re-building the innings, with the skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni giving company. Uthappa’s enterprising innings included four boundaries and two maximums. However, once he reached his half century, a brief rain delay resulted in a momentary lapse in concentration and a thin inside edge to Kamran Akmal behind the wickets off debutant Sohail Tanwar.

Irfan Pathan, the next man in, knew that he did not have enough time to settle in, and proceeded to smash the bowling right from the word go. A short burst in the middle, that included two huge sixes of Shahid Afridi ended soon though, as India were running out of time to put in a challenging total. Dhoni, on the other hand, while looking to be heading towards a possibility of a late smashing of the bowlers with a four and a six off Yasir Arafat, never really managed to get it done since soon after he was accounted for by Arafat, getting out on 33, uncharacteristically off 31 balls. India reached a total of 141-9 in the 20 overs, by no means a formidable one, but looking at the start, it was at least an acceptable one.

The Indian bowlers started off well, with Rudra Pratap Singh removing Imran Nazir early on, and S Sreesanth not giving anything away at the other end. Despite a promising second-wicket stand between Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal, India knew that it was only a matter of one or two wickets and they would be back in the match, thanks to the absence of the likes of someone like Mohammad Yousuf in the Pakistan side.

And collapse Pakistan did. Butt’s nervous sojourn in the middle ended when he edged Agarkar behind the wickets, and the very next over Akmal and Younis Khan fell, run out and bowled respectively, with the score reduced to 47-4. Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq tried to bring the chase back on track from there on with a healthy 40-run partnership, at a run-a-ball. However, by that time the asking rate had risen up, and it needed some serious thrashing for Pakistan to come back and challenge the target.

Even though Malik and Afridi fell thereafter, Misbah-ul-Haq did not give up and kept Pakistan in contention. The balance did finally change in the last three overs even with 40+ runs left to score, as he managed to score a flurry of boundaries off Harbhajan Singh and Ajit Agakar in the 18th and 19th overs. With 12 needed off the last over, Sreesanth was recalled, having proven not so expensive in his first spell. Four balls into the over, Pakistan looked on top, with a boundary and two twos coming from Misbah-ul-Haq’s bat. With just one run needed off the last two balls, it was only a matter of scraping through a single, and sealing the win. However, a dot ball put some pressure on the batsman, and with a must-run situation off the last ball, Misbah-ul-Haq was run out to end the match in a tie.

All was not over yet though. Twenty20 ties are decided by bowl-outs, and so was this one going to be. Both the teams nominated five bowlers each who have to run in and bowl at the wickets. The team with the most strikes of the stumps would win. As it turned out, India?s first three chances hit bulls-eye, while Pakistan missed all of their first three, thus giving India the win 3-0, with both the teams going through to the next round.

India 141-9 in 20 overs
Robin Uthappa 50 (39), Mahendra Singh Dhoni 33 (31)
Mohammad Asif 4-18 (4), Shahid Afridi 2-37 (4)

Pakistan 141-7 in 20 overs
Misbah-ul-Haq 53 (35)
Rudra Pratap Singh 1-22 (4), Irfan Pathan 2-20 (4)

Match tied; India won in bowl-out 3-0

Points: India 2, Pakistan 0

Man of the Match: Mohammad Asif (Pakistan)

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