India’s win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup on Sunday has been termed as “a battle that is worth watching” by former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi.
Thousands thronged the Dubai cricket stadium, braving the heat, humidity and long walk to the venue given the security cordon.
It was the 10th time the sides met in a T20 International, with India having won seven of the nine previous meetings.
Pakistan, however, came in at the back of a thumping 10-wicket win the last time these two sides met – a T20 World Cup clash at the same venue in October last year.
A capacity crowd, including former cricketers and Bollywood actors, cheered both teams as they resumed their 74-year-old rivalry.
But it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar first and then all-rounder Hardik Pandya who ensured Pakistan did not go away with back-to-back wins over their neighbours, winning praise from former India captains Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag.
Pandya, the 28-year-old all-rounder, took three crucial wickets, including that of Pakistan’s top-scorer Mohammad Rizwan, and scored 34 runs off 17 balls to take India home.
The winning runs, a six in the final over of the match, sent the Indian-majority crowd in a frenzy and left Pakistan wondering what could have been.
Pandya said staying calm in a tense situation helped him complete a successful run-chase.
“It’s important to assess the situation and use your weapons,” Pandya said in his post-match comments.
“When it comes to batting, the chances I take when executing, I’m likelier to pull it off when I’m calmer. I knew they had Nawaz waiting to bowl, and while we needed seven, even if we needed 15, I would have fancied my chances. I feel the bowler is under a lot more pressure than me. I just needed one six in that final over. I try to keep things simple.”
India’s star batsman and former captain Virat Kohli was among the top scorers for India.
Kohli, who became only the second cricketer to reach the 100-match milestone in all three formats of international cricket, had been going through a lean patch – no 100 since 2019 – and had been out of the side for more than a month.
Kohli’s dry spell with the bat had been a cause of concern for the Indian fans but he received support from his peers, most noticeably Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
His return to form did not go unnoticed as fans hailed his performance in his 100th T20I.
Pakistan missed the services of their star fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is out of the tournament with a shoulder injury.
Afridi watched from the stands as his team was unable to repeat their success from last year’s clash against India where he starred with three wickets.
In the build-up to the match, Afridi was seen chatting with Indian players as he watched his teammates during a practice session.
Both teams will play their remaining group match against Hong Kong later this week.