Following India's victory against Pakistan in the Asia Cup last night in Dubai, Hardik Pandya rightfully claimed the majority of the honour. But two other elements of India's performance also distinguished out.
First, the four-wicket haul by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, which included the early departure of Babar Azam. Second, there was a brilliant plan in the backroom to bat Ravindra Jadeja at No. 4.
Despite the fact that Bhuvneshwar's bravery came earlier, let's start with Jadeja. In order to make room for Dinesh Karthik in the finisher's position, Rishabh Pant, the lone left-handed top-order batter in the India squad, has been left out, resulting in a top five, or even six, of right-handers. Not optimal.
At the end of the eighth over, Jadeja was right on the creaseafter Rohit Sharma's wicket fell. He continued to bat until the very last over, scoring 35 in 29 balls while adding 36 with Suryakumar Yadav (fourth wicket),and 52 with Hardik (fifth wicket). A strategy that was obviously successful on the given day.
On this particular night, Pakistan's bowling lineup included a left-arm spinner named Nawaz, three right-arm quicks, a legspinner, and a leg spinner. Nawaz also performed well. He had Rohit returned in his first over, which was the eighth of the innings.
And Virat Kohli was accounted for in his following, the tenth. He also bowled the 12th over, but Jadeja's presence meant that he was only brought back in for the last over.
"The key for me was having a left-hander there in the middle because that meant they [Pakistan] couldn't bring [Mohammad] Nawaz back,"
Mickey Arthur said of India's chase on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time Out programme after the game.
"So they had to hold Nawaz to the back-end. And that ultimately probably cost them."
Chatting with Hardik in a bcci.tv feature after the game, Jadeja noted,
"When I was promoted in the batting order, I was just thinking of taking my chances against the spinners,attack them at every opportunity I get."
"And our partnership was very crucial. We just talked in the middle about backing our strengths and play our shots - this was very crucial."
Arthur concurred, pointing out that Pakistan should have used their spin options better after posting a modest total of 147 on the scoreboard.
"They should have taken pace off towards the back-end of the powerplay,"
"Principally because they knew they had only 12 overs of pace with the side they had picked, they could have gone through certainly one over of Nawaz, or even one over of Shadab [Khan, the legspinner], because I know, having studied and set up against Rohit, he doesn't play legspin particularly well in the powerplay. Or his strike rate to legspin is a lot less.
However, Bhuvneshwar [and Hardik too, as he was everywhere] done their part long before Jadeja did his.
Bhuvneshwar, who is not known to be particularly quick, fired in a bouncer in the third over after India had won the toss and ordered Pakistan to bat. Arshdeep Singh received the pull, which only caught the top edge, at short fine-leg. Big one is gone. Shadab, Asif Ali, and Naseem Shah were the final three wickets Bhuvneshwar took, giving him a final score of 4 for 26.
Bhuvneshwar may already be guaranteed a spot in the men's T20 World Cup, which will be held in Australia in October-November, given the performance he put on after strong showings in Ireland, England, and the West Indies. India will hope that they can compete even with Jasprit Bumrah and Harshal Patel back in the lineup.
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