India seek to level series in must-win tie
India will have to quickly plug their batting shortcomings and pick the right team composition when they go into the second and last Twenty20 cricket international against arch rivals Pakistan in Motera on Friday, hoping to level the two match series 1-1.
India suffered a five-wicket drubbing in the series opener in Bangalore after a middle-order collapse, which saw the hosts struggle to 130 for nine after being 90 for two at one stage.
The hosts desperately need to win the second game to level the series and the pressure will be on captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his men to deliver the goods when it matters the most.
Apart from Gautam Gambhir (43) and Ajinkya Rahane (42), all the other batsmen failed to apply themselves when confronted against a strong bowling attack spearheaded by the experienced Umar Gul.
Bowling remains a persistent headache for India
In fact, all-rounder Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina were the only ones other than the openers to have reached the double figures.
India would need the likes of Virat Kohli, Dhoni, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma to regroup and fire in unison against the traditional rivals who are also equally determined to clinch the T20 series.
The bowling also remains a persistent headache for the Indians. Except for Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who finished with impressive figures of three for nine in his debut game, none of the other bowlers could trouble the Pakistani batsmen.
Ashok Dinda, Ishant Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja all struggled to get wickets or even check the flow of runs. The decision to leave out Ravichandran Ashwin in the last match was seen as a move that worked in Pakistan's favour and Dhoni might be tempted to play him in the must-win tie.
Indian think-tank have a lot of work to do
The Indians had opted to go in with three specialist seamers in the last match and it will be interesting to see whether they go in with the same strategy or include a spinner.
Dhoni's decision to go in with Jadeja ahead of Ashwin also drew criticism.
"Ashwin was not there in this team. So our plan was that if we play out the new ball, then their spinners are not world-class; I know Yuvraj is in great form, but when you don't have a world-class spinner then we can dominate," Pakistan skipper Mohammed Hafeez had said.
Besides, innumerable chances given to Sharma has also been the talking point and the Indian think-tank may have a lot of work to do before they settle for the playing XI for Friday's match.
It will be interesting to see if a chance is given to Ambati Rayudu, considering his past performances in this format of the game.
Pakistani bowling lived up to their reputation
Pakistan, on the other hand, lived up to their reputation of a strong bowling unit with three specialist pacers -- Gul, Sohail Tanvir and lanky debutant Mohammad Irfan -- wrecking havoc on a pace-friendly Chinnaswamy track.
They would look to carry on the momentum tomorrow also though the Sardar Patel track may not give them much assistance.
The visitors' batting, however, has been a cause of concern for them with openers Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad struggling to provide a platform during their run chase at Bangalore.
Even the reliable Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi failed to get big scores.
Hafeez, Malik will look to continue with their exploits
Hafeez and Shoaib Malik were the saving grace and Pakistan would hope that they continue with their exploits along with the others striking form.
Captain Dhoni had blamed the failure of the middle-order batsmen to capitalise on the good start as the reason for his team's defeat in the first match.
"The batsmen got out trying to play big shots. We could have easily scored 200 if we had applied ourselves," Dhoni had said.
It remains to be seen whether the batsmen put up a better display now and not go for wreckless shots in a bid to accelerate the pace of scoring.
Dhoni himself will be under intense pressure with his captaincy coming under the scanner in the aftermath of the recent Test debacle against England. He has always been regarded as a better captain in the shorter formats of the game, but the recent defeats in T20 matches has certainly dented his reputation.
The defeats have come at home, where the team is playing in familiar conditions, and Dhoni has a tough task in lifting the morale of the team.