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Hardik Heroics and Surprise Moves seal India Win in Thriller with Pakistan!

High stakes games are often won or lost in the mind! In a close and tension-packed contest, India secured a crucial win over Pakistan to put their Asia Cup campaign on the right track. There were doubts ever since Pakistan crushed the ‘Men in Blue’ by 10 wickets in the T20 World Cup last year. But on Sunday night, Team India turned the tables in a gripping encounter which delighted Indian fans but also satiated Pakistan cricket lovers as the game was thrilling till the very end when India won by 5 wickets with just 2 balls to spare!! Standing calm at the end with a raised hand was Hardik Pandya, the man of the match. Pandya’s all-round excellence and even more significantly, his cool composure in tense situations was reminiscent of India’s ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni at his best.

His calculated aggression both while batting and bowling has given India the balance that it badly lacked in the last T20 World Cup when Hardik was unable to bowl. India’s other star allrounder, Ravindra Jadeja too stood tall and proved yet again how good he is as a batsman. It was the fantastic partnership between him and Pandya that lifted India from a tough spot to cross over the winning line. Frankly, it is India’s classy All Rounders who give a special edge to this team.


Earlier, India made surprise moves that possibly caught Pakistan off guard. First, in selecting the Playing XI, they chose Dinesh Karthik over Rishabh Pant and played both young pacers, Avesh Khan and Arshdeep Singh. The surprises didn’t end there as India’s pacers used the short ball as a weapon to great advantage starting with Bhuvneshwar Kumar who got rid of Pakistan Captain Babar Azam. Later, Mohammad Rizwan couldn’t tackle Hardik’s bouncer and guided it straight to the third man fielder. Indian pacers were so good that they claimed all 10 wickets and prevented Pakistan from reaching a menacing total. As India came out to chase the tricky target of 148, they were rocked back early with KL Rahul going for a duck. This brought in Virat Kohli to the crease but for once luck was smiling on him - and Fakhar Zaman dropped him, much to the relief of Indian fans. Virat then showed signs of regaining his touch as he played his 100th T20 game for Team India. Both Rohit and Virat put on a reassuring partnership. Unfortunately for India, soon after the powerplay overs, Rohit ended up chipping one straight to long off. In the next over as Kohli fell in a similar manner, India was staring at a crisis.

This brings us to perhaps the most crucial surprise – Ravindra Jadeja being sent in at number 4 to counter the threat of Pakistani spinners. The move gave India a leftright combo in the tricky middle overs. It was tactically brilliant as it meant that Pakistan had to keep their left arm spinner for the end. Jadeja stitched two critical partnerships to bail India out of grave trouble, first with Surya and then with Pandya. When Hardik walked in, Naseem Shah had just rattled Surya’s stumps and was bowling at full tilt. But Hardik nonchalantly moved across to the first ball he faced and flicked it for a couple of runs. This calm and confidence was a sign of things to come. As Jadeja and Pandya steadily brought the target down, Babar was flustered and took more time than allowed to set his fields. The result was a penalty which allowed India the luxury of having an extra fielder inside the ring. Suddenly, the rate of 10 per over didn’t look too daunting. In the penultimate over Hardik kept his calm to hit 3 boundaries which left India only 7 runs to win. Though Jadeja lost his wicket of the first ball of the last over, Hardik’s final flourish for 6 ultimately took India to a famous win. His confidence was reflected in his claim that he fancied his chances even if they had to chase 15 runs in the final over. Besides the victory and Hardik heroics, King Kohli getting into his groove is a most welcome sign for Indian cricket. But the top order jitters remain a big worry. India hope that Rahul and Rohit will soon hit top gear as the tournament progresses. Victory in the critical encounter with the arch rivals puts India in a great space to retain the Asia Cup that they are currently defending!


SIDDHAARTH MAHAN   The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi fi lm industry

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