DUBAI: It’s been 10 months since Shaheen Afridi’s memorable pace and swing dismantled India’s stick in a T20 World Cup game here at Dubai International Stadium. The Indian-paced attack bounced back literally and figuratively on Sunday night to beat Pakistan for 147 as the Indian batters raced to a thrilling five-wicket victory with two balls to spare in the Cup opener from Asia.
Led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Hardik Pandya, the Indian pacers dished out short-pitch stuff throughout the innings as the first five Pakistani wickets fell to deliveries climbing onto the shoulders of the Pakistani batters. Bhuvneshwar’s 4/26 and Hardik’s 3/25 gave the Indian batters a relatively modest target to overtake Pakistan in this tournament. It was up to Hardik to end the failed chase with an unbeaten 17-33. As Hardik finished the match with left six-armed spinner Mohammad Nawaz, he again showed why he becomes an indispensable part of the team when bowling at full throttle.
All of that nearly came to naught when India’s first order of KL Rahul (0), Rohit Sharma (12 of 18) and Virat Kohli (35 of 34) again looked out of place against quality pace as it did that night. last October. The conservative batting, which has plagued India’s T20 fortunes in big games, resurfaced as 19-year-old Naseem Shah (2/27) in place of Afridi sent shockwaves through the Indian locker room with a few thunderbolts just in front. dismissing Rahul in the first round while knocking Kohli to nothing from the first ball.

Kohli and Rohit looked scrappy during their time before being knocked out at long range off Nawaz (3/33). Ravindra Jadeja, sent to bat at No. 4 in the absence of Rishabh Pant, worked a 35-29 ball. which forced Pakistan to have five outfielders inside the circle for the last three overs) which saved the day for India.
Memories of fly-half Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan running India’s ragged attack in that same game also couldn’t be ignored when Sharma won the coin toss and sent Pakistan to bat.

Here is the thing about conditions in Dubai. Until the time Pakistan played their international matches at home here before the pandemic hit, the pitches were slow and generally sluggish.
This set of Indian bowlers – Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh alongside Bhuvneshwar and Pandya – have played the bulk of their cricket since the pandemic here in the UAE. Two IPLs and a T20 World Cup behind it, the ground in Dubai has always sported a considerable amount of green and offered more pace and bounce.
Contrary to popular belief, Dubai is more like the home of Indian leaders. The hard length between the two IPLs has become the unavoidable thing. Bhuvneshwar, admired for his movement through the air, caught Pakistani batters guessing when he decided to pull his length off the start.
Pakistani skipper Babar got tangled in the third part of the match as a high end hook lobbed short and thin leg Arshdeep. Once Babar’s quality was tamed for just 10, it set the tone for the Indian point guards. The large square boundaries made it difficult for Pakistan to find the boundary with as much regularity as modern T20 cricket demands. They were literally suffocated by a barrage of bullets aimed at their throats.
Defenders sweeping the boundary on either side of the pitch were kept active and the overall agility of the Indian defenders further frustrated the Pakistani strikers.
Rizwan, still waiting to pounce on something closer to the full length, was strapped to his back foot and working a 43-42 ball before guiding Hardik’s bouncer to Avesh’s hands at the third man.
He developed a thick skin and focused on bowling a barrage of bouncers challenging opposing batters to clear the boundaries of the square. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Ravindra Jadeja also played restrictive lengths keeping straight boundaries offside as much as possible.
A few vigorous shots in the final over by No.11 Shahnwaz Dahani, who hit 16 from six before Arshdeep decided to holeshot the block and hit his wood, offered the young Pakistani to attack a certain margin to challenge the Indian stick.

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