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Pakistan edge India in Bangalore nail-biter

December 25, 2012

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A combination of some great fielding and an inspired spell by Umar Gul (3-21), who went for plenty in his first over, meant the Indian innings came to a crashing halt and what at one point threatened to be 160-170 inched to 133/9 in 20 overs. -File photo by AFP

Pakistan mounted a stunning fightback to floor India in the first T20 in Bangalore on Tuesday.

AS IT HAPPENED

The effort was capped by Shoaib Malik's steely half-century, who guided Pakistan home in a last-over finish with a big six.

It was a tale of two comebacks by Pakistan, first with the ball after India, put into bat, looked set to run away with the game at 75/0 in 10 overs and then with the bat after being reduced by the hosts to 3-12 in three overs while chasing a target of 134.

Both passages of play were equally impressive and were a perfect demonstration of why Pakistan remains the most potent T20 side in the world. On an entertainment-metre this highly characteristic Pakistan performance ranked as a blockbuster.

The drama started when Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez invited MS Dhoni's side to take guard first, putting the onus squarely on his side's batting line up who have traditionally wobbled while chasing. The Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch was flat but had a tinge of green.

It proved to be a big gamble at the outset as Gautam Gambhir (43) and Ajinka Rahane (42) blazed away, taking all including the 7ft 1in Mohammad Irfan to task. Irfan, to his credit, consistently bowled in the high 140s and provided some awkward moments for the batsmen. Importantly, though, he did not lose his composure which is a great sign for the Pakistan set up struggling to find some bite in the fast-bowling department lately.

A combination of some great fielding and an inspired spell by Umar Gul (3-21), who went for plenty in his first over, meant the Indian innings came to a crashing halt and what at one point threatened to be 160-170 inched to 133/9 in 20 overs.

Saeed Ajmal, who largely went unnoticed, was not missing in guile and control though, and snapped up 2-25 from his four overs.

The target, when Pakistan came out to bat, was always going to be competitive and images of recent collapses were all too vivid in the minds of the fans in green.

Their worst fears were realised as debutant Indian pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar toyed with the top-order. His ability to jag the ball both ways left acres of space between the bats and pads of Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal. Kumar also accounted for opener Ahmed Shahzad and finished with astonishing figures of 4-9-3.

It was left to Hafeez and Pakistan's 'Mr reliable against India', Shoaib Malik, to stage a counter. Hafeez put paid to recent criticism of his batting ability to notch up a confident 61 off 44 balls, that included four boundaries and two sixes. Malik, too, paced his innings brilliantly and pulled out the odd big stroke at the most crucial moments.

He remained unflustered by the loss of his captain and a colourful exchange between Ishant Sharma and Kamran Akmal to remain unbeaten at 57 from 50 balls, hammering three fours and three sixes, the last of which saw Pakistan, needing 10 to win in the last over, inch over the line with two balls to spare. Hafeez bagged the Man of the Match award for his breezy effort.

The match was the perfect prelude to what promises to be a spicy next few weeks.

The second T20 starts in Ahmedabad on December 28.