World T20: Kohli, Yuvraj combine to win the game for India against Pakistan: With most part of Saturday indulging in ‘will it / won’t it’ syndrome, finally it did rain in Kolkata late in the evening, raising an element of doubt on the ‘mother of all clashes’, the game between India and Pakistan.
However, the rain gods were kind enough to ‘let go’ and allowed the game to be played, albeit a truncated one, 18 overs a side.
The ground staff of Eden Gardens did a wonderful job in drying out the ground and rendering it playable within a very short period of time. The administrative efficiency of the Cricket Association of Bengal under the leadership of Saurav Ganguly was clearly on display.
After the felicitation of yesteryear cricket legends from both the countries and the Bollywood’s biggest icon, lending his baritone for the Indian National Anthem, Eden Gardens got down to business.
Dhoni called it correct at the coin spin and elected to bowl.
Opening the attack with Aashish Nehra and Ravichandran Ashwin, India was successful in restricting Pakistan to 60 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 11.5 overs.
The pitch was taking excellent turns and that was visible when Ashwin, Jadeja and Raina rolled over their arms.
The fifth-wicket partnership between Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik realised 41 runs in 4 overs. This took the Pakistan total to 101 runs when Akmal was caught behind by Dhoni off the bowling of Jadeja for his individual score of 22 runs off 16 deliveries with a four and a six.
The pitch was not easy to play on. However Malik stuck on to one end and got out four runs later after notching up 26 runs with 3 fours and a six off 22 deliveries.
Pakistan innings folded up with 118 runs on the board losing 5 wickets.
Except Ashwin, the other bowlers, Nehra, Jadeja, Bumrah, Raina and Pandya picked up a wicket each.
The target on 119, though looked not a big one, was not easy to achieve either.
The famous Indian opening duo of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan did very little to further the team’s cause.
Rohit, particularly, who enjoys a ‘romantic’ relationship with Eden Gardens, failed to live up to the expectation and fell scoring just 10 runs off 11 deliveries in the 3rd over of the innings. Dhawan’s inconsistency continued unabated and he fell at the team score of 23 runs for the loss of 2 wickets in 4.3 overs.
Raina did not bother the scorers much since he returned much faster than he went in to bat, facing just one delivery.
The dismissals of Dhawan and Raina in successive deliveries gave an opportunity to witness a hat-trick for Muhammad Sami. However, Yuvraj played the first delivery sensibly and thwarted that attempt.
Coming together at the team score of 23 runs for the loss of 3 wickets in 4.4 overs, needing another 96 runs from 13.2 overs at an asking rate of 7.38 an over, the duo of Kohli and Yuvraj remained un-separated till the end of the 12th over.
The last delivery of the 12th over bowled by Wahab Riaz, short and outside the off-stump, was mistimed by Yuvraj ending in a simple catch to Mohammad Sami. Facing 23 deliveries, aided by a four and a six, Yuvraj scored 24 runs. The fourth-wicket partnership yielded 61 runs in 7.2 overs.
Having Dhoni for company at the other end, Virat brought up his 14th T20I half-century in 34 deliveries with 6 fours and a six.
Kohli was very calm and composed during the chase and patiently built up his innings with a number of ones and twos. He did not deliberately opt for the aerial route and played with a great sense of responsibility.
On a pitch that was difficult to play shots on, with ball gripping the surface and turning big, Kohli was in great control, something which every other batsman struggled with. He just made batting look easy.
With 13 runs required off 18 deliveries, Kohli hit a single and a four, while Dhoni hit a huge six and finished the match with a single in the penultimate delivery of the 16th over, giving India a victory by six wickets and 13 deliveries to spare.
Speaking at the post match presentation, Kohli, who was awarded the Player of the match said, “It was a challenging wicket, that”s what you want as a cricketer, new challenges to play. Last game I was very disappointed to have got out, that really hurt, even the 49 against Pakistan in Dhaka was really satisfying, that”s what you need, a tough pitch a good bowling attack and you pulling your team out of trouble. Yuvraj weathered the storm and then smacked a few, Yuvi style. I think these performances are good for him as well, he”s in good nick.”
Pakistan skipper, Shahid Afridi said, “I want to congratulate Dhoni and his team. I was not expecting a pitch like this, I think we were a bit short with runs – 30 runs short. We didn”t bowl in the right areas, I did not bowl well. Virat Kohli batted really well”.
Indian skipper, Dhoni said, “Not like this (expect to turn). In the second half it got slightly better, and they had only one spinner. Initially when we saw the pitch we did not think it would turn so much. I think we can do better, there are areas we can improve, once we get into the knockouts you won”t get a second chance. If I knew from the start if it would turn so much I have no problems playing another spinner.”
Losing the tournament opener to New Zealand, India had to win this match to stay alive in the series. They have two more games to go in the league stage.
India take on Bangladesh on 25th March in Bangalore.