PALLEKELE (Sri Lanka): Ishan Kishan’s unbridled 82 and Hardik Pandya’s blinding batting display at Pallekele helped India post 266 after Pakistan’s pacer attack dismantled Men in Blue’s top order in their Asia Cup 2023 campaign opener here at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
Kishan and Pandya’s stand of 138 off 140 balls laid the foundation for India’s total of 266. Pakistan’s pacer attack was too good for the Indian batter as they bundled out Men in Blue for 266 in 48.5 overs.
For Pakistan, Shaheen Shah Afridi was the wrecker-in-chief as he dismantled India’s top order and took the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah bagged three-wicket hauls each.
Put to ball first, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam gave the new ball to Shaheen Shah Afridi and the pacer almost pulled what could have been the big breakthrough for them, however, India captain Rohit Sharma was lucky as the square leg fielder dropped the catch. The ball ran away for a four on the second delivery of the game.
Play was interrupted due to rain with India 15-0 after 4.2 overs. Rohit was decisive in his approach and made the Pakistan bowlers toil hard making merry of the excellent batting conditions on offer. On the other end, Shubman Gill took his time to settle on the pitch.
After a brief halt of half an hour due to rain, the play was resumed. India dealt with a major blow as Afridi came up with an in-swinging ripper delivery that was able to pierce through Rohit’s defence.
Rohit’s wicket invited Virat Kohli to the crease and the star batter announced himself with a classic cover drive.
Indian top-order had no answer to an impressive Afridi attack as Pakistan’s star pacer cut short Kohli’s stay at the crease. Kohli played the ball over his stumps on the good length ball from Afridi.
The ball then struck the back pad of Kohli and changed the direction to fall on the stumps, leaving India under tremendous pressure. Afridi’s lethal in-swingers sent packing Rohit and Kohli to the pavilion. The early blows saw India reeling at 30-2 after 7 overs.
The right-handed batter Shreyas Iyer then came out to bat. The right-handed Iyer and southpaw Gill kept the scoreboard ticking for India thereafter, even as the scoring rate dipped.
Iyer slammed Haris Rauf for two boundaries as he perfectly picked the gap between mid-on and mid-wicket fielders to get fours.
A miscue from Iyer launched the ball high in the air which landed straight into the hands of Fakhar Zaman, who took a sharp catch at mid-wicket off Haris Rauf’s short ball.
Rain again interrupted the play as India were at 51/3 after 11.2 overs. After a rain halt, Kishan resumed India’s innings with a six off Rauf’s delivery.
Struggling Shubman Gill, who is yearning hard to find his form failed once again to deliver with his bat in unfamiliar conditions. The 15th over ensured Gill’s struggle with the bat continued.
Rauf got better of Gill with a fuller-than-good length delivery. A groan from Gill and a loud roar from Rauf narrated the entire story of the over.
The right-handed batter Hardik Pandya then came out to bat and the latter announced his arrival with a four as he went forward and opened his bat face to guide it to the third man.
With four wickets down, Kishan did not shy away from playing attacking shots. Kishan and Pandya drove India’s innings from that point and took their team’s total beyond the 100-run mark in under 20 overs. After 20 overs of the play, India’s score read 102/4.
After halfway of the match, Pandya and Kishan steadied the sinking Indian ship and rotated the strike brilliantly, not allowing the Pakistan bowlers to settle down while whacking the loose balls on offer.
Kishan was rewarded for his fearless approach as the batter brought up his half-century in 54 runs in the pressure game. Pandya joined the party with a fine half-century in 62 balls.
The duo of Pandya-Kishan crossed the 100-run partnership stand. The duo kept the scoreboard ticking for Men in Blue against the strong Pakistan pace attack.
In the 38th over of the game, Rauf broke the massive 138-run partnership as he removed well-set batter Kishan. The India batter departed after a solid knock of 82 off 81 deliveries. All-rounder Ravindra Jadeja then came out to bat.
Pandya in the 40th over, smoked Rauf for three boundaries with a deft touch, gathering 12 runs.
Afridi was brought back in the attack and the pacer bagged the important wicket of dangerous Pandya, who was near his century.
Pandya went back to the pavilion after playing a stunning knock of 87 off 90 deliveries. In the same over Afridi bagged the wicket of Ravindra Jadeja for 14.
Pakistan pacers did not let India put their feet on the ground as Naseem Shah removed Shardul Thakur for 3 in the 45th over. Jasprit Bumrah then came out to bat and started his innings aggressively against Pakistan’s pace attack.
Naseem then removed Kuldeep Yadav with a good-length delivery in the 49th over and on the fifth delivery of the game Pakistan pacer removed Bumrah to skittle out India for 266 in 48.5 overs.
Brief score: India 266 (Hardik Pandya 87, Ishan Kishan 82; Shaheen Afridi 4-35) vs Pakistan. (ANI)