Virat Kohli shrugged off the pressure that always surrounds an India-Pakistan match to secure a campaign-reviving six-wicket victory for the host nation in the World Twenty20 on Saturday.
The 27-year-old made batting look ridiculously easy on a difficult track and his scintillating unbeaten 55 was the difference between the sides in a rain-hit game reduced to 18 overs per team.
India, chasing a target of 119 after losing their opening match to New Zealand, slumped to 23 for three in the fifth over before Kohli and Yuvraj Singh (24) shared a match-high 61-run partnership to steady things at Eden Gardens.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni smashed a six to level the scores and then took a single to seal victory with 13 balls to spare as India maintained an unbeaten World Cup record against their arch-rivals.
Kohli, who embellished his 37-ball knock with seven fours and a six, said he enjoyed the challenge of batting on a tricky wicket in a low-scoring contest.
"That's what you need, a little testing wicket, a good bowling attack and you pulling the team out of trouble," Kohli added.
"I think that's what gives you great pleasure as a cricketer," he said after entertaining a 61,000-plus crowd that turned up for the tournament's most-anticipated contest.
Pakistan, put into bat, found the going difficult, especially against the slow bowlers, and managed only 118 for five.
Openers Sharjeel Khan (17) and Ahmed Shehzad (25) were subdued by the Indian bowlers and skipper Shahid Afridi (eight) could not justify his promotion to number three.
Shoaib Malik (26) and Umar Akmal (22) added 41 runs in four overs to take Pakistan past the 100-mark and ensure their pace-heavy attack had something to defend.
Pakistan's decision to drop left-arm spinner Imad Wasim to accommodate paceman Mohammad Sami on a turning track also backfired.
"I was not expecting a pitch like this but no excuse, we were short by 30-35 runs," Afridi said.
"Their bowlers bowled really well, especially their spinners, and Virat Kohli played an awesome innings under pressure."
The match between the winners of the first two editions of the tournament was originally scheduled in the picturesque north Indian city of Dharamsala before Pakistan security fears led to the fixture being moved to Kolkata.
KOLKATA: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi led by example as his team put a tumultuous build-up behind them to launch their bid for a second World Twenty20 title with a 55-run victory against qualifiers Bangladesh on Wednesday.
It took a lot of cajoling from the organisers to convince Pakistan to shed their security apprehensions and once they landed for the tournament, Afridi's comments about getting more love in India than in Pakistan riled up fans back home.
None of it, however, seemed to affect the team who posted a strong 201-5 at Kolkata's Eden Gardens after opting to bat first and restricted their opponents to 146-6 in a lopsided Super 10 Group Two contest.
Afridi blasted a 19-ball 49 and returned to take 2-27 in a personally satisfying outing for the flamboyant 36-year-old all-rounder.
“My performance always plays a key role [for the team] and I was very hungry to perform,” the all-rounder said after collecting his man-of-the-match award.
Afridi had been worried about Pakistan's batting inconsistency and mentioned it at the toss but the all-rounder had no reasons to complain on Wednesday as the top order fired in unison.
They lost opener Sharjeel Khan (18) cheaply but Mohammad Hafeez (64) and Ahmed Shehzad (52) added 95 runs in 11.2 overs to lay the foundation for the team's only second 200-plus total in this format.
After Shehzad's dismissal, Afridi promoted himself in the batting order and clobbered four sixes in a typically entertaining knock.
“It's a big event and I thought I should take responsibility as a captain, as a senior player. I have to set an example for them,” Afridi said.
“I love to give chance to my batsmen but sometimes you need some extra efforts [from captain] in these type of events.”
Hafeez fell to a stunning catch by Soumya Sarkar in the deep, the overbalancing fielder throwing the ball up before crossing the rope and hopping back in time to complete the catch.
Bangladesh's left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny, who was reported for a suspect bowling action earlier in the tournament, claimed 2-34 but it was otherwise a forgettable outing for their bowling attack.
Bangladesh needed a strong start to chase down such a big target but Mohammad Amir (2-27) sent Sarkar's off-stump cartwheeling in the first over before Afridi's double strikes reduced the qualifiers to 58-3 in eight overs.
Down the order, Shakib Al Hasan remained not out on 50 but the target proved too much for Bangladesh's limited batting resources.
ISLAMABAD: A two-member team left for India Monday morning to review the security situation ahead of a possible visit by the Pakistan cricket team for participation in the ICC T20 World Cup which kicks off in Kolkata on March 16, immigration officials at the Wagah border confirmed.
The team comprises Director Federal Investigation Agency Usman Anwar and Pakistan Cricket Board Chief Security Officer Retired Col Azam Khan, and is expected to be joined in New Delhi by a Pakistan High Commission official.
The officials will assess whether the security situation is suitable for the visit by the cricket team, amid threats from Indian extremist and militant organisations. During the visit, they will meet senior Indian security officials and assess the lodging and boarding arrangements for the players.
"The team will meet the Himachal Pradesh chief minister and the state police chief and prepare a report which will be sent to the PCB and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar," the statement said.
An interior ministry statement issued on Sunday said the Indian High Commission had issued visas to member of the team.
In a press conference on Saturday, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had said that the threats to the Pakistani cricketers were credible and hinted that its scheduled departure for India could be delayed until the security officials’ delegation gave its clearance.
"The trip can be delayed until we are sure that they will be safe. We want to ensure our team is provided complete security in India and this is the responsibility of the Indian government and the International Cricket Council," he had said.
The government’s scepticism appears to be justified after the chief minister of the northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh refused to provide security for a World T20 tie featuring Pakistan.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said last Sunday that the match should be moved to another venue out of respect for those killed in an assault by militants on the Pathankot air force base in neighbouring Indian Punjab.
He threatened not to provide security for Pakistan’s players at the Himachal Pradesh cricket ground in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala where the match is due to take place.
This had prompted former cricket star and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan to say that the Pakistani cricket team should not participate in the tournament following the chief minister’s refusal to provide security.
"Amid this situation, I don’t believe the Pakistan team should play in Himachal Pradesh," he said in a statement.
Indian cricket board secretary Anurag Thakur earlier accused the state of playing politics and said the country regularly provided security for Pakistani sportsmen and women.
"The venues of the World Cup matches were decided one year ago, the allotment of matches was decided six months ago," said Thakur.
"By claiming that you cannot provide security, you are only giving credence to Pakistani claims that there is a security threat to their team in India. It's about the country's image."
DHAKA: Bangladesh qualified for the final of the Asia Cup after beating Pakistan by five wickets on Wednesday.
Pakistan recovered from 28-4 to post 129-7, before Bangladesh reached a winning total of 131-5 in 19.1 overs. Mahmudullah secured victory, and a place in Sunday's final against India, with a deep mid-wicket boundary.
Mahmudullah was unbeaten on 22, but Soumya Sarkar (48) provided the platform for the victory.
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir had figures 2-26 and kept his side's hopes alive until Mashrafe Mortaza (12 not out) hit him for two consecutive boundaries in the 18th over.
Those two boundaries off a searing yorker and a bouncer came after Shakib Al Hasan perished to a reverse sweep shot, piling the pressure on Pakistan.
With 18 runs needed in the last two overs, fast bowler Mohammad Sami conceded two no-balls, one of which Mahmudullah cut past the point to hit the boundary. It left Bangladesh needing just three runs to win in the last over.
Mahmudullah, who was at the crease during Bangladesh's two-run defeat by Pakistan in the 2012 Asia Cup final, then hit a boundary to the wild delight of the home crowd.
However, Sarkar's run-a-ball 48 against a high-quality Pakistan attack, despite losing Tamim Iqbal for seven and in-form Sabbir Rahman for 14, was the key to Bangladesh's success.
Earlier, Sarfraz Ahmed led Pakistan's recovery with an unbeaten 58. He and Shoaib Malik, who scored 41, combined in a 70-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
Electing to bat first, Pakistan was 28-4 after 10 overs, before the duo counterattacked to give the bowlers a decent total to defend.
Bangladesh fast bowler Al-Amin Hossain claimed 3-25 and caused the early damage for Pakistan, helped by his new-ball partner Taskin Ahmed, 1-14.
Left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny finished with 2-35.
DHAKA: India overcame a fiery opening spell from Pakistan bowler Mohammad Amir to pummel their opponents by five wickets in a key Asia Cup Twenty20 match in Mirpur, Bangladesh, on Saturday.
Defending a low score of 83 runs, Amir generated sheer pace and swing with pinpoint accuracy on a helpful track at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium to leave India rattled at 8-3 inside three overs.
Both India's openers Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane went for a duck and Suresh Raina could help himself only hoisting a catch at mid-off to Wahab Riaz after making one.
Virat Kohli struck Amir, who bowled four overs at a stretch to finish with 3-18, for two fours in his final over to restore some confidence.
Kohli then hit Mohammad Irfan for another four in the next over before giving Riaz the same treatment twice in the space of three balls to put India firmly in control.
India finally reached 85-5 to complete the victory with 27 balls to spare with man of the match Kohli making 49, the top score, off 51 balls with seven fours.
Mohammad Sami trapped Kohli leg before to deny him his fourth fifty in five Twenty20 internationals. The pacer removed Hardik Pandya for a duck but the effort was too little too late.
Yuvraj Singh survived a barrage of short balls to give Kohli an invaluable support in their match-winning 68-run fourth wicket partnership.
The experienced campaigner remained 14 not out facing 32 balls.
“We are a team that loves to play aggressive cricket. But this pushes us to respect the conditions, which will be good going into the World Twenty20,” said India skipper MS Dhoni.
“I'm glad we restricted them to (83) runs, .. and the game was on.”
Man of the match Kohli hailed Amir for his brilliant efforts.
“I would like to congratulate Mohammad Amir for the way he bowled,” Kohli said.
“I actually congratulated him while he was bowling. It was amazing to play such a spell.”
Pakistan would have had to create a new record if they were to defend their score, as the lowest total successfully defended in a Twenty20 international is 96.
Earlier, Indian medium pacers came up with some tight and aggressive bowling as they made regular breakthroughs to put the side in the driving seat.
Pandya returned with a career best 3-8 but Jasprit Bumrah and Ashish Nehra, who claimed one wicket apiece giving away eight and 20 runs respectively, were equally impressive.
Two runouts also hurt Pakistan, who were reduced to 45-6 before they made some resistance through wicketkeeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed.
He made 25 runs, the team's best, for Pakistan while Khurram Manzoor (10) was the only other batsman to reach double figure.
Left arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja bowled Sarfraz as he finished with 2-11.
Pandya took two wickets in his final over to humiliate Pakistan to their lowest score against India in the seven Twenty20 internationals they have played so far.
Pakistan's previous lowest total against their traditional rivals was 128.
Captain Shahid Afridi rued his batsmen's failure to read the wicket.
“We have played so much cricket. We should have read the pitch, we did not play according to the pitch,” said Afridi.
“If we lose 4-5 batsmen in the first six overs, we can't score 140.”
From outstanding individual performances to scuffles between players, and a million dollars for a catch in the crowd to emerging new stars, this month has been a roller coaster ride for all the cricket-starved fans in Pakistan.
The inaugural Pakistan Super League (PSL) could have been made garish by adding a couple of cheer leaders and extravagant programs like other leagues, but the electric atmosphere and quality cricket more than made up for the sideshows and made it stand out from its competition.
When jam-packed stadiums in Dubai and Sharjah echoed with slogans celebrating Pakistan, it was enough to melt our hearts and make the league something we could proudly own.
A standing ovation to all those stellar performances, nail-biting finishes, the few pinches of arguments and emerging players shining through and making their presence felt.
Cheers to the journey of PSL ’16!
Here are a few moments that revived our love for the game:
Who knew that the heat between Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars would be more than the India-Pakistan battles?
It was in the build up to that anticipated clash that our Facebook newsfeeds busted ‘metro vs. chingchi’ jokes.
And when Amir took a hat-trick and Lendll Simmons in partnership with Shakib Al Hasan established a 109-run stand, our hearts pounded and erupted in jubilation.
Kings easily won the match and it looked like that it would go on to dominate the league, which unfortunately didn’t happen.
A sporting hero is an individual capable of conjuring something extra when it really matters. The unheralded Cheema proved himself to be the ‘hero’ for Quetta Gladiators in a tense playoff against Peshawar Zalmi.
Eight required in six was elementary considering the batsman-dominated nature of the game today. Everybody had their money on Zalmi to emerge victorious, but then the unpredictable happened.
Cheema steamed in, hit the deck hard, and he gave us a repeat performance of that nerve-wracking last over in 2012 Asia Cup final when Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs.
Just as movies are incomplete without a dash of fireworks, a cricket league too cannot make headlines without a bit of controversy and drama.
Remember Shahid Afridi and Gautam Gambhir’s scuffle in the India-Pakistan ODI at Kanpur? And when Ishant Sharma got in the face of our very own Kamran Akmal?
The list of such quarrels is endless but there is nothing to feel bad about. It’s not cricket if there are no emotions or a little bit of banter.
The Wahab-Shehzad brawl offered a glimpse into how seriously the players were taking the PSL and it wasn’t just fun and games. There were emotions, rivalry and a thirst to tear apart oppositions.
Gul vs. Afridi next edition?
It was not the first time that Shahid Afridi’s daughters showed up for a match.
They were seen in the stands on several occasions before the PSL to show support to their father Mr. ‘Boom Boom’.
But this time we saw them teary-eye and biting their nails restlessly as the match against Quetta Gladiators turned upside down for Peshawar Zalmi.
It made us feel terrible for Zalmi.
All the fans were thrilled by Quetta’s impressive show yet can’t get over those innocent, sad faces.
Quetta were termed the PSL’s ‘underdogs’ from day one, and with their gutsy performances they didn’t take long to become a neutral’s favourite.
Afghanistan Mohammad Nabi did it for Quetta against Qalandars and it was something about the understated player pulling off a sensation win which further enhanced the charm of the Gladiators.
The target on the scoreboard was mountainous. The first 200+ score was set to be chased down, and Quetta took it on rather bravely.
That match eventually sent a message across to other franchises that despite being a low-budget team and their ‘underdogs’ tag, the Quetta XI would not go down without a fight.
Nabi’s towering sixes and steely courage made way for the Gladiators to progress to the next stage in style.
The proudest moment of PSL was undoubtedly Sharjeel’s century.
With the league dominated by foreign batsmen for the most part, Sharjeel smacking the first century of the PSL was a moment to cherish.
Not to mention it took away the game from title-favourites Zalmi. Courtesy his knock, Sharjeel received national call up for the forthcoming World T20 in India.
Loved Darren Sammy’s passion? What would you say about Sir Vivian Richards jumping in excitement?
How about Sangakkara apologising to Quetta’s dugout for not hanging in there for a little longer or Kevin Pietersen advising young Mohammad Nawaz on what length to bowl?
The PSL was dotted with several moments when cricket just felt like a universal force.
As Misbah-ul-Haq hit those winning runs to lift the title, Islamabad’s slogan rang true for all of us: united we win.
Pakistan had won, and with cricket we let go of our differences.
DUBAI: Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi scored a quickfire 30 off 12 balls to help his side Quetta Gladiators chase down a mammoth 201 posted by Lahore Qalandars at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
Gladiators made 203-8 in 20 overs. In response to Qalandars’ first innings total, Gladiators run-chase heavily relied on some power hitting by their opening batsman Bismillah Khan and Kevin Pietersen as they reached 107-3 in just 10 overs.
The Quetta-born Bismillah scored 55 runs off 30 balls in an innings which included 10 fours and a six. This was Bismillah’s first outing at the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and was declared the Man of the Match.
Bismillah was supported by the England international Pietersen, who scored 34 runs off 21 deliveries hitting six fours.
Ahmed Shehzad was the first batsman to depart on four for Gladiators. Later, Kumar Sangakkara (37) and Sarfraz Ahmed (21) took the innings forward, but both of them were dismissed in quick succession by Ehsan Adil.
Adil remained the pick of bowlers of Qalandars with figures 4-0-39-4, but couldn’t finish things off for his team as Zohaib Khan failed to defend 15 runs required from the last over.
Dwayne Bravo also chipped in by claiming three wickets, whereas Kevon Cooper ended up with one.
Earlier, Skipper Azhar Ali, Chris Gayle and Umar Akmal scored half-centuries to lead Qalandars’ innings. Azhar top scored 61, Gayle 60 and Akmal unbeaten 55 as Qalandars made 201 runs for the lost of two wickets.
Qalandars’ innings relied on a solid 100-run opening stand between skipper Azhar and Gayle in just 10 overs, which provided opportunity for the batsmen coming down the order to aim for a big total.
During the death overs, Akmal was joined by Bravo (20) to establish an unbeaten 59-run stand for the third wicket, after Azhar was dismissed in the 16th over.
Gladiators hoped to make a comeback after a claiming a crucial Gayle wicket in the 11th over but couldn’t stop a fiery Akmal from smashing the ball all over the ground as he hit four fours and four sixes in his 25-ball knock.
Grant Elliott and Zulfiqar Babar claimed a wicket each for Gladiators after their skipper Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and decided to field first.