The pitch at the Narendra Modi Stadium was slow but had no demons. In fact, the black soil surface promised big scores for the batters, making life difficult for the bowling unit.
But hard lengths and a ‘little phase’ of reverse swing turned things India’s way as the home team extended its ODI World Cup record against Pakistan to 8-0, beating the arch-rival convincingly by seven wickets.
Opting to bowl after winning the toss, Indian bowlers stuck to their plans and tried bowling in the right areas in the first seven overs, but Pakistan openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq managed to battle past the low bounce and put on 41 runs on the board.
Even though the 1,00,000-plus crowd chanted ‘India, India’, some of the fans wondered, “ yeh pitch mein wicket aayega kya?”
But then, the Men in Blue had different plans.
From either ends, efforts were made to extract turns from the surface. After a Mohammed Siraj delivery kept quite low and struck Abdullah Shafique square on the pad, India found a breakthrough.
But even then, it had a long way to go and the focus was on Kuldeep Yadav and Ravindra Jadeja to keep things in check in the middle overs.
On a sluggish pitch, it seemed the spinners were in no mood to tease Babar Azam or Mohammad Rizwan with flight and loop, rather it was all about laying the LBW trap and strangle the batters in the middle overs. Both Jaddu and Kuli - as they are known in the team - kept putting the pressure from both ends, until it came to a point where a few Jadeja deliveries generated sharp turns.
There were odd leg-before appeals, a DRS reversal in the 14th over - after which Rizwan hardly attempted a sweep, a shot he usually loves playing. “We were anticipating that Rizwan would attempt some sweep shots, but he did not take chances,” Kuldeep said after the match.
The Indian spinners were slowly setting things up - Jadeja with those turns and Kuldeep with a few variations. Though Babar and Rizwan forged a rather long 87-run partnership, they failed to up the scoring rate. While Babar hit a solitary boundary against the spinners, Rizwan hit three fours off Jadeja and one off Kuldeep. For the two, it was about the singles, which meant they could not score beyond four to five runs an over on an average against Kuldeep and Jadeja.
As the team’s director Mickey Arthur pointed out later, Pakistan looked a ‘bit timid’ in the middle. And perhaps, this slowness eventually doubled up the pressure. By the time, Pakistan was nearing the 30th over, Siraj’s scrambled-skidder rattled Babar’s stumps, bringing in huge cheers from the fans. The chants only grew louder with Kuldeep’s double strike in the 33rd over - removing Saud Shakeel and Iftikhar Ahmed in a span of four deliveries.
The trap was set, and the Indian bowlers pulled the trigger.
Anticipating there would be some reverse swing, captain Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul had long discussions and the onus was on Bumrah to make it count. Over the next few overs, Bumrah triggered a Pakistan collapse. On the last ball of the 34th over, a perfect off cutter ensured Bumrah dislodged Rizwan’s stumps.
“I saw Jaddu’s ball was turning, so I counted my slower ball as a spinner’s slower ball. I thought that could make the run-scoring tough, and it worked (against Rizwan). There was a little phase in there where there was reverse swing,” Bumrah told the official broadcasters after the game.
Refusing to rest on his laurels, ‘Boom’ went about his business, and produced another cracking delivery in his next over to clean up Shadab Khan.
Rohit was all smiles, while Bumrah remained nonchalant. “You get to analyse the wicket as soon as possible. We knew the wicket was on the slower side so the hard lengths were the way. We were trying to make it as difficult as possible for the batters,” Bumrah said.
Ever since landing in Ahmedabad a couple of days ago, the Indian team knew that it would be a batting-friendly surface, where the fast bowlers will have to put in extra effort. Leading up to the big game, the fast bowling department relied on a simple mantra - being aware of the conditions.
Also read | Cometh the hour, cometh Kuldeep
“When I was young, I used to ask a lot of questions, so that has helped me develop a lot of knowledge. I like to read the wickets and try a lot of options,” Bumrah, who was adjudged the Man of the Match, said.
The visiting team, cruising at 155 for two, crumbled to 191 all-out in a space of 13 overs, making the result of the game’s foregone conclusion even before Rohit added his gloss to the win.
- Ranji Trophy 2023-24 quarterfinals: Kotian, Deshpande script record-breaking feat as Mumbai enters semis
- Namibia’s Loftie-Eaton scores fastest-ever Men’s T20I century
- R. Ashwin: The formidable match-winner enters the 500-wickets club
- WPL 2024: Struggling UP Warriorz aims comeback against dominant Mumbai Indians
- Sweden midfielder Olsson in hospital with brain condition, his Danish club says