The atmosphere was electric, the players were charged up, but the big battle – despite the result pleasing a majority of spectators in the stands – between India and Pakistan turned out to be a lop-sided affair, just like their last meeting in the Champions Trophy final last year. While Pakistan had dominated proceedings that evening in England in 2017, it was India's turn to avenge the loss, with an eight-wicket win in just 29 overs.
Once the pace duo of Bhunveshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah along with Kedar Jadhav - who recorded career-best bowling figures - had bundled Pakistan out for 162 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the writing was clear on the wall.
The moment India captain Rohit Sharma, got India off the blocks quickly with his sublime strokeplay, there was no doubt the match would be over much sooner than expected. Despite losing Sharma to a Shadab Khan googly soon after his fifty and Shikhar Dhawan falling on the cusp of one, Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik then helped India cross the line. Karthik hit the winning runs as he swept Shoaib Malik to the deep square fence.
Bhuvenshwar's performance augurs well for the team, especially considering the he is on a comeback trail after missing the Test series in England owing to a back injury he suffered during the limited overs' leg. And the swinger couldn't have asked for a better start than deceiving Imam-Ul-Haq just outside off in the third over. As Jasprit Bumrah who is making his debut in the tournament, kept the pressure on with consecutive maidens from the other end, Bhuvneshwar enticed Fakhar Zaman into a leading edge that lobbed to Yuzvendra Chahal at mid-wicket in his next over.
At three for two in the fifth over, Babar Azam and veteran Shoaib Malik got into a rebuilding mode. The latter was graciously assisted by shoddy work in the field by India, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Bhuvneshwar dropping him off Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav on 26 and 37, respectively.
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Once left-arm wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav broke the partnership in the 22nd over with the wicket of Babar, it was Jadhav's turn to take over. The dimimutive batsman who had recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered in the Indian Premier League opener, mixed his round-arm and slinging off-spinners to bamboozle the batsmen. He was assisted by a moment of brilliance on the field from substitute Manish Pandey - who came in to replace an injured Hardik Pandya - to dismiss Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Two overs later, a direct hit from Ambati Rayudu left Malik short of the crease and at 100 for five, the game was all but over. Jadhav then dismissed all-rounder Asid Ali and Shadab Khan in no time to ensure India didn't have to chase down even a respectable total as Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah wiped the tail off.
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Asia Cup: Hardik Pandya stretchered off field
India, however, had a major injury scare with all-rounder Hardik Pandya being stretchered off. After delivering the fifth ball of his fifth over, Pandya went down in his follow-up and couldn't get up. After being examined by team physio Patrick Farhart, Pandya was stretchered off and didn't play any further role in the innings.
According to a team spokesperson, Pandya suffered an “acute lower back injury” and was “able to stand”.