Pakistan stumbled after a good start before Shoaib Malik and Umar Akmal put their innings back on track in Friday’s World T20 match against India at Mirpur.
The experienced duo looked good for a big partnership as they put on 50 runs from 42 balls for the fourth wicket till Amit Mishra made the crucial breakthrough.
Malik had hit Mishra for a six over long-off in his previous over, but threw his wicket away attempting the same shot in the 16th over.
He came down the track to the leg-spinner but failed to time his lofted shot and was caught by Suresh Raina on the long-off boundary.
That wicket set Pakistan back big time going into the death overs.
Umar Akmal was out two overs later and Pakistan could manage only 34 runs in the last five overs.
Their modest total of 130 for seven ultimately proved way too short in the final analysis as India cruised to a seven-wicket victory with nine deliveries to spare.
The Indian spinners made most of bowling on a pitch offering a lot of turn and bounce, but with Saeed Ajmal in their ranks no one was ruling out Pakistan’s chances.
India struggled at the start, as just seven runs came from the first three overs before openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan cut loose.
Rohit went after Junaid Khan, hitting him for a four and six to get 12 runs from that over to get the Indian innings on track.
But it was the next over that turned the tide in India's way.
Dhawan, who till that point was struggling on five from 15 balls, decided to target Pakistan's main strike bowler. He slog-swept the third ball through mid-wicket for a boundary before another couple of fours to get 12 runs from the over.
That set India on the way. Pakistan captain Mohammed Hafeez was forced to take off Ajmal despite them needing to break India's opening partnership.
With Pakistan’s off-spin ace off, the task only got easier. By the time he returned for another spell, India were well on the way to victory.
Though bowled four more over later, all he could do was restrict the flow of run as the Indian batsmen cruised home.
Image: Shikhar Dhawan
Photograph: Andrew Biraj/Reuters