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Record against Pak remains intact

Ravindra Jadeja celebrates Mohammed Hafeez’s wicket, on Friday

Dhaka: Rarely have Pakistan managed to maintain the tempo that developed from a great performance on a given day. The boom in Pakistan cricket has always been followed by an unexpected slump.

However hard Mahendra Singh Dhoni might try to justify that the acrimony has gone out of an India-Pakistan clash, there’s no denying the fact that such victories mean a lot to one’s confidence.

Friday’s seven-wicket win in their opening match of the World T20 will provide Team India with the much-needed belief that had showed signs of erosion following their recent dismal turn of events.

Pakistan’s Asia Cup triumph over Dhoni’s men had forced many to believe in these parts that India’s struggle would continue. But India once again kept their slate clean in a World Cup match pressing home the fact that history does count after all.

Dhoni has the knack of pulling off surprises and decided to do something similar again. India chose to go in with three spinners, and then to make sure they didn’t have to battle the dew, decided to bowl on winning the toss.

Pakistan struggled against a controlled Indian attack and none of the batsmen managed to provide the momentum that would have bailed them out of the crisis.

A target of 131 was too little in the circumstances, and once Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan provided a solid foundation, there was no looking back for the Indians.

If Shahid Afridi was given very little width to launch the offensive in the slog overs, Dhawan made sure Saeed Ajmal didn’t get the opportunity to weave magic in favourable conditions. Three fours in his first over dented the off-spinner’s confidence, and it was too late by the time he tried to stage a comeback.

Once the openers departed in quick succession and Yuvraj Singh fell to Bilawal Bhatti’s guile, it seemed Pakistan could claw back. Those expecting the familiar twists and turns in such contests braced for another humdinger, but Virat Kohli (36 not out off 32 balls) and Suresh Raina’s unbroken 66-run partnership ended such misgivings.

Kohli and Raina (35 not out off 28 balls) never showed any desperation and reached home with nine balls remaining. The way Raina hoisted Umar Gul over mid-wicket to level the scores and raise his arm showed the silent determination that has crept into the Indian ranks. T20 contests are not just about slam-bang batting, patience and application do count.

It was always billed as a contest between India’s batsmen and Pakistan’s bowlers. Even Dhoni went to the extent of saying that bowling remained an area of concern. The bowlers, though, decided to put such notions to rest.

Aided by helpful conditions and Pakistan batsmen’s penchant for self-destruction, the bowlers managed to put the lid on Pakistan’s hopes.

Had the Indians held on to two difficult chances in the outfield and Ahmed Shehzad not survived a run out attempt at the non-striker’s end, it could have spelt further disaster for Hafeez’s men.

Such inept showing will surely mean calling for some desperate measures by batting consultant Zaheer Abbas. There was hardly any discipline in sight as the batsmen seemed inclined to score boundaries off every ball.

Amit Mishra was preferred over Varun Aaron keeping in mind the leg-spinner’s performance against Pakistan in the Asia Cup. Having been brought out from the cold, Mishra had come up with a scintillating show at this same venue with figures of (10-0-28-2). Though it ended in a losing cause, he managed to restore the Team India captain’s faith in him.

Mishra (2/22) has hardly disappointed since, and on Friday, he along with Ravindra Jadeja (1/18) and Mohammed Shami crippled the Pakistan batting in the middle and slog overs. From 96 for three in the 15th over, Pakistan could accumulate only 34 in the last five despite having the explosive Afridi at the crease.

It was mainly because of Sohaib Maqsood’s 21 off 11 balls towards the end that the innings gained some respectability. As the runs dried up for Pakistan, desperate measures were sought tide over the crisis. It only spelt doom, as it just didn’t seem to be Pakistan’s day.

The Indians opened with Ravichandran Ashwin to exert pressure, but it was Kamran Akmal’s suicidal run out that opened the floodgates. Only Umar Akmal seemed capable of calling the shots with a quick-fire 33 till Shami cut short his ambitions.