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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rohit and Gambhir script emphatic win

India v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20 warm-up

Rohit and Gambhir script emphatic win

Sidharth Monga

June 3, 2009


India 159 for 1 (Rohit 80, Gambhir 52*) beat Pakistan 158 for 6 (Misbah 37*, Younis 32, Ishant 1-11) by nine wickets


Rohit Sharma hooks, India v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match, The Oval, June 3, 2009
Rohit Sharma never looked out of place as an opener © Associated Press
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Finally India and Pakistan played out a one-sided Twenty20 game. Filling in for Virender Sehwag as opener, Rohit Sharma continued to give India a combination dilemma and made the chase seem like an afternoon walk in a London park. A target of 159, with extra bowlers available by the virtue of this being a 13-a-side game, was by no means an easy one, but Gautam Gambhir and Rohit managed with the ease that belies the tension an India-Pakistan match brings.

Nothing about this encounter suggested it was a warm-up game. The sell-out crowd, and the intensity in the first innings was something even the final of the actual tournament will be proud of. But in the second innings, Pakistan went into the experiment mode. They went in with an interesting strategy, interchanging the usual roles between Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir. Gul, who usually bowls in the last 10 overs, opened the bowling, and Tanvir came on to bowl in the 10th over - none of the moves worked.

Nothing about Rohit's innings suggested that he was a makeshift opener. Although Gambhir kickstarted things with three boundaries in the first three overs, including one off Gul's first ball, it was Rohit who took the match away from Pakistan. He got going with a heave over mid-on in the third over, but the slogs were conspicuous by absence in the rest of his innings.

Yasir Arafat, who bowled three overs at the top of the innings, went for a six in his second and two boundaries in his third. The 17-year-old prodigy Mohammad Aamer produced good pace in his first over, but he too was pulled for four by Rohit. By the end of the seventh over, when Pakistan threw the final roll of the dice - the spinners - India had already reached 65.

The batsmen played out Saeed Ajmal's first over quietly, but in Shahid Afridi's first over Gautam Gambhir joined the party, with a short-arm-pull over midwicket. Tanvir, in his first over, was hit for perhaps the shot of the day, a yorker flicked to fine leg. By the time captain Younis Khan called the spinners back, Rohit was in the mood for some fun, hitting Ajmal inside-out and pulling Afridi over midwicket. When he got out for a 53-ball 80, India needed only 19 runs in four overs.

Lack of discipline and a few big hits from MS Dhoni and Gambhir meant the game ended in the next over. Quite fittingly, Pakistan finished the match with a wide.

It wasn't as facile when the old sparring partners started off for the first time since last year's Asia Cup in Karachi. They wasted little time in going for punches and counter-punches during a frenetically-paced first innings. A wicket in the first over didn't deter Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran Akmal from counterattacking spectacularly with a 25-ball 43-run stand. They stumbled just as sensationally, losing the next three wickets on the same score before the two coolest heads in the team, Younis and Misbah-ul-Haq, rebuilt and took Pakistan to what seemed a fighting total.

Praveen Kumar and Shehzad set the agenda early. Praveen followed two bouncers with an outswinger to clean up Shahzaib Hasan. Akmal then crashed the first ball after the wicket through the covers for four. In the next over, Shehzad hit RP Singh for three boundaries, an over during which he was also dropped by Harbhajan Singh at short midwicket.

Dhoni quickly called on the raw pace of Ishant Sharma and the effect was immediate. First Suresh Raina ran out Akmal through superb work at cover, and Shehzad top-edged a pull in the same over. The panic set in when a promoted Shahid Afridi went boom first ball he faced from Irfan and managed just an outside edge to Dhoni - 45 for 1 had become 45 for 4.

Shoaib Malik counterattacked, but fell soon. Either side of Malik's dismissal, no boundary was hit for 42 balls until Misbah made room and lofted Ojha to wide long-on in the 13th over. By the time Younis fell for a run-a-ball 32, the two had been added 50 in 45 balls. Arafat and Misbah provided the final impetus, scoring 29 in the last two overs, but it proved to be way below-par on the night.

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