Hardik Pandya’s stellar all-round performance against Pakistan in the high-octane Asia Cup clash on Sunday led India to a resounding five-wicket win in Dubai. However, former South African cricketer Mickey Arthur believes that it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s fiery opening spell, getting rid of Pakistan’s ace batter Babar Azam that set the tone for India’s triumph.
Put into bat first, the Pakistan skipper looked in fine fettle and started off his innings in a sumptuous fashion. He struck two classy boundaries off Indian pacers, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh. Just when it seemed like Babar would take away the game from the Indians, Bhuvneshwar banged in a vicious bouncer forcing the 27-year-old to play a hoot shot. However, the world no. 1, top-edged a skier only to be caught at short fine leg.
Arthur, who is also the former Pakistan national team head coach, revealed that Babar’s early departure caused panic in the Pakistan dressing room.
“Bhuvneshwar Kumar is an outstanding bowler and he getting Babar, did set the tone. He removed the best player, and when you do that, you cause a little bit of panic in the opposition camp,” Arthur said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo.
The Indian pacers had done their homework and banged it, in short, every now and then. The Pakistan batters could not manage to withstand the short ball ploy and perished time and again. After Babar, it was Fakhar Zaman who fell for the ploy, edging a bouncer from Avesh Khan to the keeper.
Man of the match, Pandya then stepped in and got rid of Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammed Rizwan yet again with deliveries pitched halfway down the track.
With their short ball frailty being exploited by the lethal Indian pace attack, Pakistan were bowled out for 147 runs. On a sticky pitch, India never looked comfortable chasing a mediocre target until Hardik cracked open the game, this time with the bat in hand. He hit three boundaries in the penultimate over, before finishing off the match in flamboyant fashion with a huge six with just three balls to spare.
On Wednesday, August 31, India will face Nizakat Khan’s Hong Kong at the same venue in Dubai. Pakistan will also play their final Group A match against Hong Kong in the first week of September.