Asia Cup 2022

August 28, 2022 was the day cricket fans had been waiting for — the much-awaited Pakistan vs India match, which turned out to be worth the anticipation with Hardik Pandya powering India to a 5-wicket victory in the last over of the game. The final result looks pretty dominant, as a 5-wicket win is considered big in T20 cricket, however, the match was hanging in the balance till the very end.

Hardik Pandya was the star that stood out in this match; the world witnessed the comeback of Pandya — the Allrounder. He returned with figures of 3 for 25 with the ball, and later, scored 33 off 17 to chase down the total of 148 on a challenging Dubai wicket. Ever since, his return to full-time bowling this year, he has been a different player altogether, after dealing with back injuries that curtailed his bowling abilities.

But Hardik came a bit too late to the party both with the bat and ball, he gave the finishing touch and took India out of crunch situations, however, the man who kicked off the party was Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He picked up 4 wickets for 26 runs, including the all-important wicket of Babar Azam in the 3rd over of the game. Babar’s wicket was the major breakthrough, considering Pakistan’s over-reliance on him and Rizwan. After Babar, Indian bowlers targeted Pakistani batters with bouncers and it worked almost every time. Rizwan top scored with 43 off 42, before falling prey to Hardik Pandya.

Pakistani batters never looked comfortable on the pitch, and an inexperienced middle order collapsed against sensible Indian bowling. Khushdil Shah and Asif Ali, who were trusted as pinch hitters, who could hit big, only managed to score 9 runs off 14 balls combined. Iftikhar Ahmed showed some intent with 28 off 22, however, it wasn’t enough. Before him, Fakhar Zaman made headlines for his honesty and sportsmanship after walking back to the pavilion even before the umpire raised his finger. But honesty doesn’t win you games, does it?

The match looked like a recap of India vs Pakistan from T20 World Cup 2021, with the team roles reversed, only until the second ball of the Indian innings. Indian captain Rohit Sharma and K.L Rahul, walked down to the middle with a paltry total to chase, hoping to replicate what Babar and Rizwan did in WT20. However, debutant tearaway Naseem Shah rattled K.L Rahul’s stumps on the second ball of his T20I career and sent Rahul back with a golden duck. Two balls later, he made Virat Kohli edge one to slip, but he was dropped luckily.

Virat survived a few more chances after this dropped catch, as two close inside edges went past his stumps. After those early hiccups, he looked comfortable and many people predicted this match to be his return to the old glory days. He was fluent in his innings, before giving an easy catch to the mid-off fielder off Nawaz. Ravindra Jadeja was promoted up the order and he took responsibility. He stood there till the very end along with Hardik Pandya to guide India home, but his lust for the glory shot sent him back before Pandya finishes off in style.

Although India won the match, they had to go past the inspiring young Pakistani fast bowlers, who gave a tough fight to their strong batting line, especially, Naseem Shah, who on debut gave a performance of a lifetime, while dealing with cramps. If it wasn’t for Naseem and Haris’ muscle cramps, they would have made things more difficult for Indian batters. Hope the cramps don’t get serious, as Pakistan cannot afford to lose any bowler after losing Shaheen Afridi and Wasim Jr. because of injuries.

This match raises many questions for both teams though in terms of performance, which they need to answer in order to win the Asia Cup. However, this match also emphasized the value of genuine all-rounders in modern-day cricket. Jadeja and Pandya both performed equally well in all departments, whereas on the Pakistan side, their all-rounders failed with the bat, and Khushdil was not even tried with the ball. Hopefully, Greenshirts can regroup and come out of their miseries in the next.