One small step for Pakistan, a giant leap for Indo-Pak relations!

Pakistan gave their fans a welcoming Christmas gift with a comfortable 5 wicket win against arch rivals India. Rana Malook reviews the days play.

Whatever differences exist between Pakistan and India politically or otherwise, the collective love and appreciation of cricket in both countries is undeniable.

After a pointless five year break in which neither side toured the other, this T20 international showed the cricketing world what it’d been missing. The pressure of expectation on both teams in this fixture is arguably the greatest of any cricketing contest in world cricket including the Ashes.

It is perhaps this pressure which is gives India-Pakistan meetings the x-factor for spectators. This match did not disappoint.

Match Facts:

M. Irfan and B. Kumar made their T20 internationals for Pakistan and India respectively. Pakistan won toss and decided to bowl.

India 133-9 from 20 overs. ( U. Gul 3-21 / S. Ajmal 2-25 – G. Gambhir 43 / AM Rahane 42 )

Pakistan 134-5 from 19.4 overs. ( B. Kumar 3-9 / I. Sharma 1-23 – M. Hafeez 61 / S. Malik 57* )

Pakistan won by 5 wickets. Man of the match.

Debutants Star

When Mohammad Irfan made his rather forgettable ODI debut two years ago at Chester le Street against England, few thought he’d ever make a return at International level. The 7’1 giant left arm seamer bowled an uninspired and nervous wicket less spell, going at nearly 7 an over.

He has however forced his way back into reckoning with strong domestic performances. On Christmas Day 2012, he did make an inspired comeback with a hostile spell of fast bowling which resulted in the crucial wicket of Kohli.

India on the other hand have unearthed a brilliant swing bowler in the shape of Bhuvneshwar Kumar very much in the Praveen Kumar mould. The youngster’s spell of 4 overs yielded incredible debut figures of 3-9. The discipline of line/ length and the control of seam / swing was more fitting of a test match spell. I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more of this youngster in the future.

Best T20 bowling attack in the world?

After a blistering start by Gambhir and Rahane which propelled them to 77-0 in the 11 overs, India managed to lose 9 wickets for just 47 runs in the next 9. Blaming the Indian batsman on this particular occasion however may well be an obtuse observation.

Not only was Pakistan’s ground fielding surprisingly the best seen in recent history with two brilliant run outs, their bowling was exceptional. Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal ruthlessly ripped through the heart of the Indian batting line up, taking 5 wickets between them.

Ajmal expertly outfoxed both Dhoni and Raina and was his usual economical self at just over 6 an over. Gul was a tad more expensive but used his experience to trick a dangerous looking Yuvi into a false shot with a slow bouncer. He then came back in the penultimate over to take two wickets in two balls to crush any hopes India had of posting a decent score.

Whilst the experience and consistency of Gul and Ajmal make the Pakistan bowling attack a potent force in T20 cricket, it is the back up of Afridi, Hafeez, Tanvir, Junaid, Irfan, Arafat and co which arguably makes them the best in world cricket.

Patience is a virtue

At 12-3 in only the third over Pakistan were staring down the gun barrel of another T20 defeat against their neighbours. Their start had the hall marks of another choking performance in which they fold under pressure, being bowled out for 112.

Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez and the experienced Shoaib Malik however played their best T20 innings for their country to compile a hundred partnership. A stand which all but secured their first ever win against India in this format. Both batted intelligently and absorbed the early pressure created by excellent spells of bowling from Sharma and Kumar.

After successfully seeing off a tricky passage of play, they then mounted a timely assault on the part time bowling of Kohli and Yuvraj to great effect. It was the sort of temperament not usually associated with a Pakistani batting display.

Alas it appears as if, times are a changing with Hafeez in charge. Pakistan will be looking to build on the patience and skill which yielded their first T20 win against India.

For the neutral spectator however, it was just good to see the two sides competing again in another exhilarating roller coaster of a cricket match.

image: © mashfiq13