The mood at the Kotla changed when India finally got the man who had scored two consecutive centuries against them. Nasir Jamshed was dismissed cheaply for 34, and now there was delicious anticipation in the air.
Defending just 167, India had prised out three Pakistan wickets for 61 by the 21st over. From thereon, the visitors somehow managed to lose their way. India’s 10-run thrilling win in extreme chilly conditions has somewhere added warmth in the otherwise frozen and demoralised dressing room.
Spare a thought for India’s bowlers, for their batsmen once again failed to stand up to a much-superior Pakistan attack. Debutant Shami Ahmed shared the new ball with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a decision that paid off handsomely. The experienced Ishant Sharma also exploited the conditions quite beautifully.
First, Bhuvneshwar snared Kamran Akmal, opening for Mohammad Hafeez who sustained a finger injury while trying to take a return catch off MS Dhoni, before breaching Younus Khan’s defence. Ahmed impressed with his high-arm action and maintained a good line outside the off-stump.
India’s fielding, in particular, was a class apart on Sunday. Even Misbah-ul-Haq admitted that India’s energy levels made the difference. The enthusiasm of this relatively young side kept frustrating the Pakistan batsmen and forced them to hit over the fielders. They only ended up playing ambitious shots and lost wickets at regular intervals, although Misbah and Umar Akmal did keep the visitors interested with a 52-run stand.
Ravindra Jadeja’s spell proved to be a turning point as he conceded just 19 in 10 overs and claimed Akmal’s wicket. Pakistan still had their ace, Hafeez, in the middle. Batting down the order , he counter-attacked Ishant when they needed 23 in the last two overs, with only one wicket in hand. A dream finish wasn’t to be as Hafeez holed out to mid-wicket. Yuvraj Singh cupped the catch there gleefully, giving India respite from a sequence of humiliating defeats.
Earlier, India’s batting woes continued as they folded up for 167 in 44 overs. Pakistan seamers, as they have done throughout the series, rattled India’s top-order. If Mohammad Irfan looked unplayable to a shaky Gautam Gambhir, then Junaid Khan hardly allowed Ajinkya Rahane (who replaced Virender Sehwag) or Virat Kohli to get into the zone.
Rahane (4), after playing and missing outside the off, edged one angled delivery to the wicketkeeper. Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal took charge thereafter and finished with five for 24.
For India, a well-set Yuvraj’s dismissal may have been the biggest disappointment. He tried to play Hafeez’s simple off-spin delivery across the line and was cleaned up. Suresh Raina and Dhoni showed resistance in the middle. Recovering from a sore back in the nick of time, Dhoni took on Hafeez, hitting him over long-on twice before clearing mid-wicket. It did appear as if the hosts would reach a decent total. Ajmal, however, trapped Raina in front, ending the 48-run stand. When Dhoni finally departed, it was only a question of adding a few more to the paltry score.