168 runs. 33 overs. 15 wickets down. We are not talking about an ODI or a Test match here. Rather, these are the stats from the India v Pakistan T20 game in the Asia Cup 2016, played last night at Dhaka. On a pitch where even medium pacers clocked 140 kph consistently, the two arch rivals engaged in a low scoring slug fest which ended in a hard fought victory for India. Pakistan were bowled out for 83 in the 18th over, and despite Mohammad Amir’s sensational 3/18 India were home in the 16th over with 5 wickets still intact. Quite unsurprisingly, it was Pakistan’s nemesis Virat Kohli who once again stood up to the challenge and took his team home under adverse circumstances.
Pakistan’s batting still in doldrums
It was not long ago, during the Cricket World Cup 2015, that Shoaib Akhtar had laid into the Pakistan team for spineless batting performances. More than a year since Akhtar’s tirade, nothing seems to have changed for Pakistan. The batsmen remain frivolously irresponsible, with none in the top order displaying even a modicum of responsibility under challenging circumstances. With no Misbah to hold things tight from one end, the Pakistani batting now looks as fragile as ever. Sarfraz Ahmed, batting at No 6, was perhaps the only batsman yesterday who valued the importance of spending time at the crease. In hindsight, with the bowling prowess exhibited by Afridi’s men, the result could have been entirely different last night had the batsmen got a couple of useful partnerships going in the middle overs.
Problems for India on green tracks
Even though green tracks do not present a pleasant sight for most batsmen, India have recently found it excruciatingly tough to handle their batting department on such pitches. Be it in Pune against Sri Lanka, or in Dhaka against Bangladesh a few days ago, the Indian top order has been regularly rattled by seam bowling at the start of the innings. Though Pakistan’s total yesterday was not challenging enough for the Indian batting line up, situations may look entirely different in the rest of the tournament. This calls for the team to get together and make sure that the top order does not throw itself away when the going gets tough. Suresh Raina’s wicket yesterday (he was caught at mid on trying to go for a tentative push on the On side) was an apt example of the temperamental problem that hard hitting batsmen in the Indian team face every time the ball does not come on to the bat sweetly enough!