India had a few questions to answer after their worrying effort against Associate side Hong Kong as they struggled to a 26-run win on Tuesday.
Their new-ball bowlers and middle order stuck out like a sore thumb. But against Pakistan, India ticked almost all the boxes. Seam bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar (3-15) and part-time off-spinner Kedar Jadhav (3-23) knocked the wind out of their rivals’ batting to dismiss them for 162.
The target was never going to trouble India as captain Rohit Sharma smashed 52 from 39 balls with India chasing down the target on 29 overs.
Here, we take a look at the things we learned from India’s win.
BHUVI BACK TO HIS BEST
India’s pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been up and down all year, especially after his lower back injury in the IPL. He has looked down on pace on occasions and generally off the boil. Even in England in the third ODI, he was given a chance to prove his fitness but failed miserably and ended up missing the critical Test matches.
In the first match of the Asia Cup, Bhuvi was handled easily by Hong Kong openers Anshuman Rath and Nizakat Khan. There were concerns that the back injury had done him for good.
But against Pakistan, Bhuvneshwar used all his experience to settle the match in the first half hour. Bowling short of length, Bhuvi forced openers Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman back and got both batsmen out with short or shortish balls. The returning Jasprit Bumrah was spot on with 2-23.
FIELDING STILL POOR
Catching is not a strength of this Indian outfit, be it Tests or ODIs. Their butter fingers were on display in Dubai on Wednesday with three chances going down.
First, wicketkeeper MS Dhoni failed to hold on to a one-handed chance from Shoaib Malik off the bowling of Hardik Pandya.
Then, Bhuvneshwar misjudged a catch in the deep, again from Malik, to deny Kuldeep Yadav a deserved wicket. And then Yuzvendra Chahal dropped a straightforward return chance off Faheem Ashraf.
Three dropped catches in one match show India still have not rectified the fundamental problem plaguing their fielding.
JADHAV SURPRISES PAKISTAN
Part-time off spinner Jadhav’s job is to contain the runs with his outlandish bowling action which sends the ball at an odd angle and slow pace to batsmen.
Not only was Jadhav on the money again, as he was against Hong Kong, he picked up three wickets for in the process for 23 runs from nine overs. On the slow pitches of UAE, Jadhav’s dibbly dobblies are like gold dust.
PAKISTAN GIFTED WICKETS
As well as India bowled, the fact is Pakistan batsmen played a major role in getting out. Imam charged down the wicket to somehow nick behind, captain Sarfraz Ahmed charged down the wicket to Jadhav to get caught at long on in the 25th over and change the course of the match. Then there was Malik’s run out after he was dropped twice.
Shot selection is a tricky issue in white ball cricket as batsmen have to push hard at the ball. However, Pakistan will realise India didn’t have to earn the majority of their wickets.
PAKISTAN CAN TAKE IT EASY
While India-Pakistan matches are always crucial, it was just the first of what could be three ODI matches in the UAE between the two sides this month.
The two teams clash once again in the Super Four stage and then possibly in the final. All those matches will be in Dubai and the experience gained in the first game should help the men in green rectify their mistakes.
They only need to look at their 2017 Champions Trophy campaign when they lost their opening match against India by 124 runs before crushing the Indians in the final.
India put their below par performance against Hong Kong on Tuesday behind them as they eased to an eight-wicket win.
India dismissed Pakistan for 162 less than 24 hours after Hong Kong’s openers alone had added 174.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Kedar Jadhav picked up three wickets each while captain Rohit Sharma smashed a quickfire fifty to seal a comfortable win in 29 overs.
Here we take a look at the key moments from the match.
BHUVI’S STRIKES (2.1 overs)
The wicket in Dubai is slow so Bhuvneshwar decides to pull the length back. Imam-ul-Haq charges at the bowler and edges it behind.
BHUVI STRIKES AGAIN (4.1 overs)
The big fish. Fakhar Zaman ,yet to open his account, decides to take on Bhuvneshwar. A top edge is safely taken at mid wicket.
DHONI DROPS (15.6 overs)
Hardik Pandya bowls a full ball moving away from Shoaib Malik. A faint nick goes down to Dhoni’s right who fails to complete a one-handed attempt.
PANDYA INJURED (17.5 overs)
Hardik Pandya loses his footing while bowling and injures his lower back. Stretchered off the ground.
KULDEEP’S GOOGLY (21.2 overs)
Left-arm spinner Kuldeep breaks a dangerous stand between Babar Azam and Malik. Near perfect googly finds a way past Azam’s defence to his off stump.
BHUVI’S HORROR DROP (23.4 overs)
Malik miscues a sweep off Kuldeep but Bhuvneshwar completely misjudges the trajectory and misses the ball.
JADHAV’S GOLDEN ARM (24.5 overs)
Sarfraz Ahmed charges at part-timer Kedar Jadhav. Substitute fielder Manish Pandey sprints more than 30 metres at long on and takes a juggling catch.
MALIK RUN OUT (26.6 overs)
Confusion between Asif Ali and Malik. The veteran batsman well down the pitch, turns back but is run out by a direct hit from Ambati Rayudu.
JADHAV AT IT AGAIN (28.1 overs)
Ali tries to glide Jadav past point but gets a faint edge behind. Dhoni does not make a mistake this time.
SHADAB STUMPED (32.6 overs)
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan tries to hit out against Jadhav but misses the ball and Dhoni is lightning quick to have him stumped.
CHAHAL DROPS ASHRAF (35.4 overs)
Yuzvendra Chahal flights the ball and Faheem Ashraf drives the ball straight back to the bowler who fails to hang on.
ASHRAF OUT (41.1 overs)
Jasprit Bumrah bowls a fine slower one and Ashraf mistimes a slog to mid wicket where Shikhar Dhawan takes a safe catch.
BHUVI SUPERB (42.1 overs)
Hasan Ali tries to straight drive Bhuvneshwar but fails to get any timing and is easily caught at mid on.
BUMRAH SPECIAL (43.1 overs)
Bumrah finishes the innings as he castles Usman Khan with his trademark yorker bowled from wide of the crease.
ROHIT OPENS UP (7.5 overs)
Rohit Sharma pulls Usman Khan’s free hit well over the square leg fence for a six to break’s Pakistan’s new-ball confidence.
ROHIT OUT AFTER A QUICK FIFTY (13.1 overs)
The India captain raced to 52 from 38 balls before he received a ripper of a leg-spinner from Shadab Khan to lose his stumps.
The Indian cricket board has been asked uncomfortable questions regarding the scheduling of the Asia Cup.
Firstly, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed expressed his disappointment at his team being asked to play their Super Four matches in Abu Dhabi while the Indian team gets to play their games in Dubai irrespective of where the teams finish in Group A after Wednesday’s clash.
“If you have to travel during matches for one and a half hour. It is difficult. And then train in this weather… It should be even for all teams. If there are matches in Abu Dhabi, all teams should play there,” Sarfraz had said on the eve of the India-Pakistan clash.
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza joined the growing controversy, objecting to the way group standings have been decided even before the end of the opening stage.
“This morning we heard that we are already Group B runners-up regardless of whether we win or lose tomorrow. So of course it is disappointing,” Mortaza said after it emerged Afghanistan had become Group B toppers even before the clash against the Tigers.
It was believed that the winners of Group A and the runners up of Group B would end up playing in Dubai with the remaining two consigned to Abu Dhabi in the Super Four stage. But the Asian Cricket Council on Tuesday itself released a new schedule which showed India playing Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Dubai and the other three teams having to travel to Abu Dhabi.
However, a BCCI official revealed all this had been decided beforehand and that the participating teams had been informed about the arrangements before the Asia Cup started.
The BCCI official explained that it was imperative for India to play its matches in Dubai as they felt that was the best way to maximise revenue through the 40-plus corporate boxes at the Dubai Stadium and also ensure full crowds. The BCCI official stated they don’t believe they can generate that level of revenue in Abu Dhabi. “We have to make a profit on this tournament,” the official said.
It was because of this need to maximise revenue in Dubai that the scheduled was ‘made’ in such a way. And according to the BCCI official, the management of other teams knew the arrangements.
Interestingly, the Dubai ground on Tuesday was not even half full for the clash between India and Hong Kong.