Banking on spin to win

The match was built up to be a typical battle between the Pakistani bowlers and the Indian batsmen, but it turned out to be nothing of the sort. By Shreedutta Chidananda.

M. S. Dhoni shed his reluctance to field three spinners and India was rewarded with a handsome seven-wicket victory over Pakistan in the opening Super Ten fixture of the ICC World Twenty20. Amit Mishra was given the nod ahead of Varun Aaron, and he repaid the captain’s faith with a Man of the Match performance. The Haryana leggie took two for 22 from his four overs, bamboozling the opponent with flight and turn. It is not the sort of display we are used to seeing from leg-spinners in T20 cricket, who prefer to spear the ball in flat.

“MS [Dhoni] came to me and said you don’t think too much, you do just what is your strength,” Mishra said later.

“My strength is to spin the ball and I beat the batsmen by giving it some flight. I had their opener stumped. I dismissed Shoaib Malik. You gain a lot from such small tips. The way MS keeps telling me helps in such a pressure game. This is what has worked for me, so I look to work on it and improve.”

The match was built up to be a typical battle between the Pakistani bowlers and the Indian batsmen, but it turned out to be nothing of the sort. Mishra’s effort was complemented by those of Ravindra Jadeja (4-0-18-1) and R. Ashwin (4-0-23-0), as India tied the batsmen down.

Kamran Akmal was run out, a dismissal that could so easily have been avoided, while Ahmed Shehzad was stumped off a beauty from Mishra. Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik tried to revive the innings, adding 50 steady runs for the fourth wicket, but once they fell, things went downhill. Suresh Raina, who was to play an important role with the bat, held three catches in the deep, including that of Shahid Afridi, who failed to repeat his heroics from the Asia Cup.

It was a night when India’s fielding did not look up to scratch, Yuvraj Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar spilling chances on the boundary, and Jadeja and Mohammed Shami slow to react. There was an issue, though, Raina later explained. “I think the light towers are very low, especially when you are fielding at mid-wicket. So I was just looking at the ball and doing nothing. I am glad we took some brilliant catches,” he said. “When you are playing T20, your best fielder has to be on the boundary line after 10-15 overs, to take catches of dangerous players like Afridi. So I think fielders like Virat, me, Jadeja and Rohit have to be on the boundary from the next match.”

A total of 130 was always going to be below par on a wicket that, while slow with a bit of turn, asked no difficult questions of the batsmen. India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan put on 54 runs despite looking a little rusty at times. The two fell in quick succession and when Yuvraj was bowled looking to play Bilawal Bhatti across the line, panic could have set in.

Raina and Virat Kohli, though, ensured it didn’t, taking the team home with an unbroken stand of 66. For Raina, who endured a difficult 2013 and was omitted from the squad for the Asia Cup, it was a happy return. “I realised what I had done earlier; I analysed my game and what can be done in the upcoming games. I worked hard with my coach in the nets and played a few domestic games and now I’ve done well,” he said.

“I spoke to Sourav Ganguly on the phone. He is a sweet person. He just spoke to me about my footwork and it helped me.”

THE SCORES

Pakistan: Kamran Akmal (run out) 8, Ahmed Shehzad st. Dhoni b Mishra 22, Mohammad Hafeez c Bhuvneshwar b Jadeja 15, Umar Akmal c Raina b Shami 33, Shoaib Malik c Raina b Mishra 18, Shahid Afridi c Raina b Bhuvneshwar 8, Sohaib Maqsood (run out) 21, Bilawal Bhatti (not out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-3): 5; Total (for seven wickets in 20 overs): 130.

Fall of wickets: 1-9, 2-44, 3-47, 4-97, 5-103, 6-114, 7-130.

India bowling: R. Ashwin 4-0-23-0, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 3-0-21-1, Mohammed Shami 4-0-31-1, Amit Mishra 4-1-22-2, Ravindra Jadeja 4-0-18-1, Yuvraj Singh 1-0-13-0.

India: Rohit Sharma b Ajmal 24, Shikhar Dhawan c Ajmal b Gul 30, Virat Kohli (not out) 36, Yuvraj Singh b Bhatti 1, Suresh Raina (not out) 35; Extras (w-5): 5; Total (for three wickets in 18.3 overs): 131.

Fall of wickets: 1-54, 2-64, 3-65.

Pakistan bowling: Mohammad Hafeez 3-0-14-0, Junaid Khan 3-0-23-0, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-18-1, Umar Gul 3.3-0-35-1, Shahid Afridi 3-0-24-0, Bilawal Bhatti 2-0-17-1.