At half way, whose game is this? I don’t know! Superb by Pakistan in the opening overs, thwarted by Pant and Kohli, at his very best. That seventeen runs from Afridi’s final over could be costly – though he bowled like an absolute dream. Babar’s side were brilliant in the field, throwing themselves at everything. Time for a quick cup of tea.
An email! Tony Mason writes. “Tanya, thanks for these updates. I started watching the game but the screeching from the stadium announcer just turned me off so I switched to the football and have only you for cricket company. Has there been any dampening of the irritation since India were about 12-2?”
I was actually so engrossed with the game that I zoned out! The chase will be worth tuning in for.
20th over: India 151-7 (Shami 0; Bhuvneshwar 5) It’s the superb Rauf with the last over, and with Pandya gone, India can’t get him away. A sprinkling of twos,, a bye from the last, and just seven from it. And breathe.
A slower ball and Pandya powers high and picks out Babar.
19th over: India 144-6 (Pandya 11; Bhuvneshwar 1) After the glory of the Kohli wicket, Afridi is called for a waist-high no ball, and a free-hit. It’s beautifully bowled, India charge for one and a furious Afridi hurls the ball at the non-striker’s end, misses and the ball goes for four over throws. Carnage! Seventeen from the over.
Kohli swings at a slower ball and a diving Rizwan swoops to swallow in florescent green gauntlets.
18th over: India 127-5 (Pandya 0; Kohli 57)Kohli reaches fifty with a clip off Hasan Ali for two. The next goes high and handsome over extra-cover, hit on the up, impossibly good. Jadeja needs to motor and motor he does, swivelling and sending the ball flying to the fine-leg boundary, only to hole out next ball.
Jadeja is on the charge, but misreads the slower ball and sends it aerially.
17th over: India 114-4 (Jadeja 9; Kohli 48) Jadeja changes his bat – he’s not exploded into this game yet. Kohli drives, straight to the sweeper. Babar paces about, looking nervous. He has a green bandage on his hand – I wonder, do all the team first-aid kits match the jerseys? Rauf is canny, changing his pace cleverly, three slower balls in a row. Just four singles from the over.
16th over: India 110-4 (Jadeja 7; Kohli 46) Oh that’s clever from Kohli, who pulls Hasan in extreme wristiness, down to the fine-leg boundary. And another, pin-point timing, through extra-cover, beating a diving, tumbling, Shadab on the rope. Kohli is in sublime touch.
15th over: India 100-4 (Jadeja 6; Kohli 37) Shadab’s final over starts with two dots, then three singles, what is Kohli going to do with the sixth? Forcing a single is all he can manage. Well bowled Shadab! 1-22 in four. Six overs left.
14th over: India 96-4 (Jadeja 4; Kohli 35) Rauf rushes in, a beanpole on speed. Veteran Shoaib Malik patrols the outfield, throwing his body at hte skidding white ball and India can’t reach the boundary – till Virat eyes up a yorker, just inches wide, and turns it down to the rope. He punches the air in repressed passion.
13th over: India 87-4 (Jadeja 1; Kohli 30) Babar whistles up to Shadab, whose trousers may just be tucked into his socks. Pant mishits him for two, but doesn’t survive the next heave-ho. Jadeja leapfrogs Pandya in the order.
Pant is down on his knees, sweeps, mishits, high, high, and is well held by Shadab off his own bowling, hands high over his head with enough time in the air for a swallow of relief when it is safe.
12th over: India 81-3 (Pant 37; Kohli 28) Hasan busies in and Pant, kneels, and mis- sweeps him one-handed for SIX! Babar smiles – what can you do? And Pant repeats it next ball, this time a one-handed straight-drive. Kohli pats him on the helmet paternally. The fifty stand comes up in 38 balls. India are fizzing.
11th over: India 66-3 (Pant 22; Kohli 28) Babar reverts to seam and Haris Rauf, who scorches in, ball held in both hands across his chest. He’s nippy and India can’t get him away. Kohli shakes his head in frustration after mis-timing and just picking up a single.
We pan to the royal box where all the Indian superstars are dressed like rich boys sloanes on a night out, all fresh T-shirts, blazers and (possibly) deck shoes.
10th over: India 60-3 (Pant 18; Kohli 26) Oh the majesty! Pant, a back-cut, drills Hafeez for four. And at the half-way stage the run-rate remains, as it has most of the game, six an over. They take drinks.
9th over: India 52-3 (Pant 13; Kohli 24) A good over spoilt by a short leg-side last ball that Pant kneels for and picks up and dispatches to the fine-leg boundary. That might give him the momentum he needs, has been struggling a little for timing. Eggs-over-easy for Kohli.
“With SKY’s poor IPL form, India’s batting is too top-heavy in this world cup,” writes Aditya Anchuri. “I don’t understand how he made the cut with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shreyas Iyer around in Indian cricket, not to mention Ishan Kishan on the bench for this game. India often shoot themselves in the foot with selection and so far that’s how this feels.”
8th over: India 43-3 (Pant 6; Kohli 22) Hafeez’s off-spin proves equally difficult to score off. Perhaps 120 will be a good score on this pitch, used by England and West Indies yesterday.
Rizwan’s enthusiasm was misplaced, a reverse-sweep that missed everything. Good decision.
7th over: India 39-3 (Pant 4; Kohli 20) It’s time for Shadab and his flat leg-spin. Just three from the over though as Pant can’t get him away.
6th over: India 36-3 (Pant 1; Kohli 20) Hasan Ali runs in, his chain running round his neck and over his jersey. He’s not got got the starburst of Shahidi but, today, he’s got the magic. Suryakumar tries to inch down the pitch to power another boundary but only edges behind. Kohli opens the face and sends the last ball of the power play through the covers for a four of gloriousness.
Back of a length, straightens, and Suryakumar throws the bat, flipper footed, and a two-handed diving catch by Rizwan almost in slow motion.
5th over: India 30-2 (Suryakumar 11; Kohli 15) Babar Azam keeps Afridi on for a third over, but no cigar this time around. Kohli gets the blood flowing, the stadium dancing, driving Afridi straight over long-on for six. Pure timing and exhilarating wristy-power.
3rd over: India 14-2 (Suryakumar 7; Kohli 4) Almost more than anything, I am full of admiration for Afridi’s hair – the ultimate application of gel. After that wonder wicket, he tests and tests again, until Suryakumar has enough and pulls him for six just over the fielder at deep-square.
Unbelievable! The ball swings in and Rahul is momentarily perplexed and it is a moment too long. Stumps akimbo.
2nd over: India 6-1 (Rahul 3; Kohli 3) It’s Imad, ponytailed and tall, with his slow left-armers. Kohli and Rahul push for gentle singles, some light relief.
Richard Thompson writes: “When I grow up, I want to be Shaheen Shah Afridi.”
1st over: India 2-1 (Rahul 1; Kohli 1) A huge roar as Afridi starts his Amazonian run up. He starts with two dots, at around 90mph, and Rahul picks up a single off the third. Then the wicket : a delivery bounteous in its gorgeousness. Kohli arrives at 1-1.
A golden duck for Sharma as Afridi inswings a full ball into his pads, wham-damn in front of middle stump. No doubts for the umpire and Pakistan are flying!
Pakistan huddle just outside the boundary; Rahul and Sharma march to the middle. The first over will be bowled by Afridi. He dances from foot to foot at the top of his run-up.
Anthem time. Pakistan first, left hands on chest in unison, in slightly sludgy green kit this time around. Then India. They sing along, Virat Kohli’s collar raised in jaunty manner.
Extremely dramatic music on Sky as they play their preview package. In the ground, there seems, from the TV at least, more of an atmosphere than during England v West Indies: drums, drama, more people in the stands. The commentators are having to shout over the din.
The game will be played on the same strip where West Indies were bowled out for 55 by England yesterday.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Suryakumar Yadav, Rishabh Pant (wk), Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Varun Chakravarthy, Mohammed Shami, Jasprit Bumrah
R Ashwin carries the drinks again!
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi
While Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are battling it out in Sharjah in the highest-scoring game of the competition so far, what can we expect from Dubai? A slow pitch that will favour the spinners, but both teams also have Exocets in their fast-bowling pack. Princely showman Shaheen Shah Afridi for Pakistan, and India’s careful dissector Jasprit Bumrah. We expect the toss shortly, with teams to follow, it all kicks off at 3pm BST.
For a little something special on a Sunday afternoon, how about the biggest international rivalry in sport? India v Pakistan has the pizzazz of cold-war style USSR v USA on the ice-hockey pitch, only with a ball and (slightly) less on-field agro. In cricket, only England v Australia can match it. But that has considerably less geo-political impact these days .
India stroll into the game huge favourites. Massive. They’ve beaten Pakistan in their last five T20 World Cup meetings and are favourites to bring home the trophy. Flighty Pakistan, whose pre-tournament practise was disrupted by the withdrawal of the English and New Zealand touring parties, will have to experience the Haal, as Osman Samiuddin wrote about so brilliantly here.
“Sometimes, but not always, it takes an unusual dismissal to turn on the light – a run-out, an electric catch, a part-timer taking a wicket. And then there is total frenzy, so overwhelming and real you can almost hold it in your hands. Such is its force that it can be deeply moving even through the sensory dilution and sanitisation of TV, even on ball-by-ball commentary online. But to let it get right inside your head and start rearranging your brain – like acid but a lighter, less paranoid burn – you have to be there as it happens.”
India v Pakistan was the most watched game of the 2019 men’s 50-over World Cup, with the ICC reporting 273 million unique views watching “linear TV’ with another 50 million digital-only viewers. Crazy, uncomputable, numbers but, however you look at it, lots of eyes. The figures for today are expected to be comparably huge.
And just for the lols, the two leading scorers in IT20s over the last three years? Babar Azam and Virat Kohli. Grab your condiments of choice, this is going to be fun.