The all-around show of Hardik Pandya was the main difference between the two sides as India coasted to a five-wicket win against arch-rivals Pakistan in their Asia Cup 2022 opener on Sunday. Ravindra Jadeja, who hit 35, and Pandya, unbeaten on 33, put on a critical fifth-wicket stand of 52 as India achieved the 148-run target with two balls to spare in Dubai. Pandya also shone with the ball and made the hotly-anticipated match his own. He returned figures of 3-25 with his bowling and then hit the winning six in a tense chase.
For Pakistan, Naseem Shah stood out with figures of 2-27 but a foot injury in the last few overs had him limping. The young quick struck early with the wicket of KL Rahul for naught as the opener dragged an express delivery onto his stumps. He later bowled Suryakumar Yadav for 18 and even completed his final over despite having severe cramps.
Experts and fans praised the bowling display of Naseem, who had them wondering if the result had been different in case he was fully fit. When the question was asked to Jadeja, he said that the 19-year-old suffering cramps would not have stopped India from winning the contest.
“Aisa kuch nahi hai ke cramps agar nahi aatey toh hum haar jaate. Kyuki T20 mein last mein koi bhi bowler pressure me rehta hi hai. Experienced bowler bhi last ke 2-3 overs pressure mein rehta hi hai (It’s not like we would have lost if the Pakistan bowler (Naseem) had not picked up cramps. No matter how big or experienced a bowler one is, there is always pressure on them in the last 2-3 overs of a T20),” said the India all-rounder in the press conference ahead of the Hong Kong fixture.
“We were trying to score as many till the 18th-19th over so that we didn’t leave too many for the last over. Luckily, we delivered what we were trying,” he added.
Jadeja also lauded Naseem’s effort, saying that he knew his line and length against the opponent batters. Apart from Naseem, Mohammad Nawaz also bowled well to register 3/33, though not enough to give Pakistan a win.
“Naseem Shah is a good young pace bowler. He knows what line, length, and areas to bowl against which batter. All three of their fast bowlers were good. They were bowling in good areas. It wasn’t easy,” said Jadeja.
The all-rounder brushed aside hot conditions in the UAE for Naseem’s cramps and talked about the pressure that comes with Indo-Pak clashes. “Weather is the same for all. It’s not that it is good for one team and bad for the other. It is up to the individual to prepare himself – take the proper amount of water and fluid intake. As a professional cricketer, everyone takes care of it.”
“Sometimes, due to pressure situations, the nerves set in, and that can lead to cramps,” he explained.