Pakistan 182 for 5 (Rizwan 71, Nawaz 42) beat India 181 for 7 (Kohli 60, Rahul 28, Rohit 28, Shadab 2-31) by five wickets
India on the attack
Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, both under the scanner a little bit for being a bit conservative at the top, were anything but conservative. In the first over itself, Rohit gave Naseem Shah the charge and hit him over mid-off for four. Then he stayed back and pulled him for a six. Rahul responded with some intent of his own, hitting Naseem for two sixes in the third over. The two brought up India’s second-quickest fifty batting first in T20 internationals, in just 4.2 overs.
Action all around
India were in no mood to consolidate. What followed will provide a stern test of their belief in their method. Haris Rauf bowled a slower ball at the start of the sixth over, and Rohit ended up skying it. Rahul tried to hit the first ball after the powerplay for a six, and picked the wrong’un too, but ended up hitting Shadab Khan straight to long-on.
The intent still didn’t ebb. Suryakumar Yadav hit the first ball he faced for a boundary, the seventh time he has done so in 24 T20I innings. However, Nawaz and Shadab made it difficult for India to keep hitting boundaries. Eventually Suryakumar looked to sweep in the air, but was done in by the length and holed out. Rishabh Pant, stifled at the start, fell to a reverse-sweep. Hardik Pandya fell to a chip to midwicket, and it became 131 for 5 in the 15th over.
Pakistan close out superbly
The spinners went for just 56 runs in their eight overs, taking three wickets too. The fast bowlers were not having a great day, and Kohli was around at the death, where his strike-rate is exceptional, especially when he has got himself in.
However, Kohli was now batting with the last recognised batter, Deepak Hooda, with no six-hitters to follow. So Kohli possibly had to tone down his aggression. The fast bowlers bowled superbly too, giving Hooda few opportunities to hit. Then a slower ball went straight to long-on, leaving Kohli to farm the strike in the end.
Only two misfields off the last two balls took India to 181.
India shackle Pakistan
India may not have the pace of the Pakistan bowlers, but their accuracy frustrated the Pakistan top three at the start. Babar Azam chipped Ravi Bishnoi to midwicket much like Pandya had done earlier against Mohammad Hasnain. Fakhar Zaman, who had conceded seven extra runs in the field, was denied any freedom by the accuracy of the bowlers, and he was eventually left with no option but to take risks. When Fakhar was out for 15 off 18, Pakistan needed 119 off 68 balls.
Nawaz the disruptor
It is not as though Pakistan didn’t have a specialist left-hand batter in the middle order, but they still promoted Nawaz. Perhaps because the asking rate was high, they felt the need for a low-cost hitter to keep it in check. Also Nawaz is no stranger to big hits; he has pulled them off in domestic cricket and in the PSL.
Quite possibly Nawaz would have been in good hitting form in the nets because he came out and started middling everything, taking pressure off Rizwan. The next six overs went for 9, 10, 10, 11, 12, 16.
Nawaz steered the second ball he faced for four. The third ball he faced went for a huge six off Pandya. Now errors started to creep in. Yuzvendra Chahal offered Rizwan a full-toss, which went for six. The quicks missed their lengths a bit. And the cameo went on for long enough to bring Pakistan within 46 of the win, with 27 balls left.
The nervy finish
Pandya got Rizwan out with persistent wide lines. Bishnoi, who had an over left, bowled a superb 18th over, conceding just eight, bringing the equation down to 26 off the last two overs. India were right back in with a chance, but they had also made a mistake. Arshdeep Singh had dropped a sitter from Asif before he had scored a run.
Asif and Khushdil proceeded to cancel out Fakhar’s fielding errors by taking 19 off Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s 19th over, his second-costliest at the death in T20 internationals. Then Asif hit Arshdeep for a four in the 20th to leave Pakistan needing two off four balls. Arshdeep came back to trap him lbw, but with two required off the last two, Iftikhar Ahmed found the winning runs off a low full-toss.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo