Shahid Afridi won Pakistan a thrilling clash against rivals India at the Asia Cup with an outrageous display of hitting, his 34 not out from 18 balls sneaking his side to a two-ball, one-wicket win in Bangladesh.
The game swung one way and then the other after India posted 245-8 in their 50 overs, but Afridi's pyrotechnics were extraordinary, coming as the game looked gone.
He has a reputation for batting recklessly, but the flip side of his attitude to batting is that perhaps there was no other player who could have hit Ravi Ashwin for successive sixes in that environment to secure victory.
Pakistan, won the toss and opted to bat first, and they did what looked like a good job of containing India.
The batting line-up is much-vaunted, but Shikhar Dhawan was trapped by the spin of Mohammad Hafeez in just the third over. After a flurry of hits from Rohit Sharma, the men in green got the prized wicket of Virat Kohli when he offered a timid edge to Umar Gul.
Thereafter it was a frustrating innings for India. There were starts—Sharma, Ambati Rayudu and Ravindra Jadeja all posted half-centuries but none was able to convert it into more than 60.
Spin was crucial for Pakistan, with Saeed Ajmal collecting 3-40 from his 10 overs and together with Hafeez accounting for five India wickets. But Mohammad Talha, thrown into his debut ODI, was also impressive, his seamers accounting for the wickets of Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane for the loss of just 22 runs from seven overs.
In response, Pakistan's start was bright and breezy. Openers Sharjeel Khan (25 from 30) and Ahmed Shehzad (42 from 44) made rapid early progress against the seamers, only for the arrival of the spinners to change the complexion of the chase.
|India vs. Pakistan, Asia Cup ODI: Recap|
|Ro Sharma||c Hafeez||b Talha||56||86||58|
|Kohli||c U Akmal||b Gul||5||28||11|
|Rahane||c Hafeez||b Talha||23||61||50|
|Rayudu||c Sub||b Ajmal||58||116||62|
|Karthik||c Ajmal||b Hafeez||23||53||46|
|Ashwin||st U Akmal||b Ajmal||9||8||7|
|Shami||c Maqsood||b Ajmal||0||3|
|A Mishra||not out||1||6||1|
|Extras||0nb 5w 0b 3lb||8|
|Total||for 8||245||(50.0 ovs)|
|Shehzad||c Ashwin||b A Mishra||42||60||44|
|Hafeez||c B Kumar||b Ashwin||75||128||117|
|Misbah-ul-Haq||run out (Jadeja)||1||6||4|
|U Akmal||c Jadeja||b A Mishra||4||17||17|
|Maqsood||run out (Ashwin)||38||90||53|
|Shahid Afridi||not out||34||31||18|
|Gul||c Rahane||b B Kumar||12||18||12|
|Talha||c Jadeja||b B Kumar||0||2||1|
|Junaid Khan||not out||1||2||1|
|Extras||0nb 6w 0b 11lb||17|
|Total||for 9||249||(49.4 ovs)|
Ravi Ashwin bowled Sharjeel Khan, then Amit Mishra accounted for Shehzad, squeezing the run rate accordingly.
The engine room of Pakistan's batting in recent times, skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and wicketkeeper Umar Akmal, then both fell for single figure scores to leave the men in green at 113-4.
Misbah's run out was particularly important, putting pressure on Hafeez, who had contributed to his teammate's downfall:
Mohammad Hafeez has been involved in 21 Run outs in ODIs; he himself has been run out 7 times while his partners have been run out 14 times!— Arun Gopalakrishnan (@cricarun) March 2, 2014
His innings was steady, but it allowed the run rate to get out of hand, and by the time he fell for a 117-ball 75, Pakistan suddenly looked like the underdogs.
But Shahid Afridi burst into life, his cameo with Umar Gul wresting back the initiative. Both men hit sixes to inject some much-needed momentum into the chase, leaving 13 runs to score in 12 balls.
Rahane took a superb catch to account for Gul, Talha followed recklessly in the same over to leave Afridi 10 to score from the final six deliveries.
Ajmal falling to the first ball of the over looked to have finally swung the game decisively India's way—but last man Junaid Khan managed a first-ball single to bring Afridi on strike.
He launched successive balls over the rope for six in an extraordinary climax and with two balls and a wicket to spare, the game was won.
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