Mirpur (Bangladesh), Feb 27 (IANS) India rode on a strong bowling performance to defeat arch-rivals Pakistan by five wickets in their Twenty20 International clash of the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium here on Saturday evening.
Both teams struggled to bat on a greenish wicket with uneven bounce. The Indian bowlers justified their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to field first by bundling out Pakistan for a mere 83 runs in 17.3 overs.
This was the third lowest total by Pakistan in T20 cricket.
The Indian batsmen then braved some excellent bowling by the Pakistan pacers to overhaul the target in 15.3 overs.
Virat Kohli top scored for India with 49. The Delhi lad put on a 68-run stand with Yuvraj Singh (14 not out) to take the match away from Pakistan.
Kohli, who was adjudged the man of the match, was unlucky to given leg before just one run short of his half-century off the bowling of Momammad Sami. Television replays later showed that the ball had taken the edge of the bat before hitting the pad.
Amir had figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Sami (2/16) got two wickets. Mohammad Irfan (0/16) also bowled well although he did not manage to get a wicket.
Defending a measly total, the Pakistan fast bowlers showed their true pedigree with a brave effort.
Amir gave Pakistan a glimmer of hope, striking early blows for Pakistan. He removed Indian openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in the opening over before either batsman had opened their respective accounts.
Amir was unlucky not to get a favourable leg before decision with the very first ball of the Indian innings. The left-armer bowled a superb yorker which moved in slightly to hit Rohit on the front leg. The umpire however, was unmoved by the jubilant Pakistani appeals.
Amir made amends in the next ball which moved sharply in after pitching on a good length, beating Rohit with pace and movement to trap him plumb leg before.
The 23-year-old trapped Rahane leg before just two balls later with a beautiful delivery that slanted across the batsman before moving sharply in after pitching.
In his next over, Amir fooled Suresh Raina with some deceptive movement as Wahab Riaz grabbed an easy catch at mid on.
But if the sizeable Pakistan contingent among the spectators nurtured any hopes of a strong comeback, they were quickly dashed as Kohli and Yuvraj took charge.
The duo were regularly beaten by the movement and variable bounce, but survived some close calls to take India slowly but surely towards victory.
Kohli and Hardik Pandya went back in quick succession towards the end. But Dhoni joined Yuvraj in the middle to guide India to victory with more than four overs overs to spare.
Earlier, Pandya bagged a three-wicket haul as India bundled out Pakistan for a meagre total.
Pandya returned figures of 3/8 while fellow pacers Ashish Nehra (1/20) and Jasprit Bumrah (1/8) also made good use of the uneven bounce on a greenish wicket.
Ravindra Jadeja (2/11) also bowled well.
Sarfraz Ahmad was the top scorer for Pakistan with 25. Only two other batsmen managed to post double figures.
The Pakistani batsmen compounded their own misery by some poor shot selection and shoddy running between the wickets which led to a couple of run outs.
The Indian pace duo of the experienced Nehra and talented youngster Bumrah bowled a superb opening spell. They bowled with pace and swing, helped by the uneven bounce.
Pakistan suffered an early blow when Nehra struck in the very first over. Opener Mohammad Hafeez was outfoxed by the variable bounce when he misjudged the height of an incoming delivery.
Sharjeel Khan followed his opening partner back to the pavilion soon after when he attempted to cut a widish delivery from Bumrah. But the extra bounce caught him unawares and he offered a thick edge off the bottom of the bat to Rahane at first slip.
Khurram Manzoor, who was making his debut, did not have a memorable introduction to T20 Internationals when he was run out under somewhat comical circumstances.
The 29-year-old ran halfway down the pitch after Shoaib Malik hit a Bumrah delivery to Kohli at cover. Malik tried to send Manzoor back to his crease. In his haste, Manzoor dropped his bat and was caught a long way out of his crease as Kohli came up with an accurate throw to the non-striker’s end.
That virtually knocked the wind out of Pakistan’s sails. When Malik and Umar Akmal were dismissed off consecutive deliveries leaving Pakistan tottering at 35/5, their innings was as good as over.