India’s campaign in the 2022 Asia Cup commenced with the Men In Blue facing Pakistan, which also saw the return of Hardik Pandya, who was stretchered out with a bad injury the last time he had played at the Asia Cup. The last time both sides met was in the 2021 T20 World Cup group stages, which saw Pakistan pull off arguably the greatest upset of all time, beating their arch-rivals by 10 wickets.
Ten months later, the two cricket giants faced each other once again in the Asia Cup opening fixture where two evenly-matched sides went toe-to-toe in a hard-fought fixture. However, after some nervy moments, the Men in Blue prevailed, thanks to a solid partnership between Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya.
Here we glance at the top takeaways from the thrilling match.
An exceptional bowling effort
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar scalped four wickets in an attempt to subdue Pakistan’s attack. Dismissing current world No. 1 Babar Azam was perhaps the biggest relief for the Men in Blue, thanks to Bhuvneshwar. The 32-year-old sent Shadab Khan, Asif Ali and Naseem Shah back to the pavilion to complete his four-wicket haul against the arch-rivals.
Arshdeep Singh has been shining for India since his debut earlier this year. The young seamer from Punjab is currently one of the most consistent bowlers in the squad. Arshdeep faced the middle order and the tailenders and took two wickets. Both seamers were exceptional nonetheless. Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s experience and Arshdeep’s raw talent were a joy to watch as India dismissed Pakistan for 147.
Virat Kohli back in form?
After a string of dismal performances, Virat Kohli finally seemed like he was getting back his form. The former world No.1 scored 35 off 34 balls to help India early on in the second innings. Kohli’s hard-hitting style came in handy as the maestro smashed three boundaries and sent the ball over the ropes once.
Kohli faced debutant Naseem Shah upon entering the pitch and almost lost his wicket to him. Perhaps the stars were aligned for the 33-year-old who saw his poorly timed shot being dropped by the slip. It will be interesting to see how Kohli plays against Hong Kong in India’s upcoming fixture.
Sir Jadeja still a star
Ravindra Jadeja continues to deliver for India after an impressive all-round performance. Even though the 33-year-old has no wickets under his name, his spin contained the Pakistan batters and limited the damage. Conceding 11 in two overs helped India mitigate the damage even more than they already had.
Jadeja with the bat was an even greater delight. With skipper Rohit Sharma out prematurely and Kohli out for 35, Jadeja paired up with Suryakumar Yadav to handle things. It was not long before the latter got out. The southpaw all-rounder took matters into his own hands and gave the Pakistani bowlers a thrashing of his own. Smashing two boundaries and maximums each, Jadeja gave a boost to the supporters and the spectators as he teamed up with Hardik Pandya. Jadeja went back for 35 in 29 balls, which was enough for India to cruise to victory.
Pandya proving to be a gemstone
It was another player of the match performance from Pandya as he takes the nation by storm with his exquisite performance. Pakistan were tough to face in the opening overs of the match. With Pandya entering the bowling attack, the Men in Green were sent down toppling. Pandya scalped three wickets bowling in the middle overs, which collapsed Pakistan’s batting order. His victims included a fearsome Mohammed Rizwan, who was untouchable with 43 off 42 balls until Pandya thought otherwise. Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah followed as Pandya remained relentless with his seam.
In the batting front, Pandya entered the pitch after Suryakumar was dismissed for 18. With 59 needed in less than six overs, the 28-year-old joined forces with Ravindra Jadeja to gun for the win. Things got intense when Jadeja would lose his wicket on the first ball of the last over. It seemed like Pandya had already told the southpaw to take things lightly with just seven needed off the over. However, Jadeja’s fall saw Pandya squat in despair as he shook his head.
Dinesh Karthik, who entered the pitch next, took a single in the following delivery to give Pandya the strike. With six needed off four balls, he tried to smash the ball in the offside but the fielder in place blocked the path. It seemed like Karthik was trying to convey a word of patience to the batter on strike when Pandya gestured for him to calm down. In the following ball, Pandya smashed a six to end the game in a phenomenal style.
Hardik Pandya’s composure were lauded by everyone. From fans to legends, everyone praised him for his brilliance when the stakes were high. Dinesh Karthik was seen shaking Pandya’s hand and bowing to him to acknowledge his calmness.
Naseem Shah becoming a force to be reckoned with
If there is one takeaway in favour of Pakistan, it will be debutant Naseem Shah’s bowling. The young debutant showed his nerves of steel as he was chosen to bowl the first over of the match. With the Indian skippers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul in front of him, the young seamer showed no signs of nervousness. Following a single off the first ball, Naseem bowled Rahul for a golden duck in the following delivery to kick start his T20I debut.
In an attempt to subdue the Indian batting attack, Naseem picked up a cramp in his last over, which forced him to be subbed off. However, the young lad’s sheer perseverance while bowling his last over, as he sprinted for each delivery while enduring the cramp just comes to show his determination and dedication to his nation’s duty. Naseem picked up two wickets in total on his debut and safe to say, he was applauded by all for his brave bowling.
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