Half-centuries from skipper Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik guided Pakistan to a dramatic five-wicket victory over fiercest rivals India in the first Twenty20 international at Bangalore.
The tourists were in serious trouble at 12-3 chasing a target of 134, debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar doing the early damage in the first mutual series between the two neighbours in five years.
However, the calm presence at the crease of Hafeez and an enterprising innings from Malik put Pakistan’s chase back on track, which at one point looked to have given them a cruising victory, the pair put on a fourth wicket stand of 106 off only 85 balls.
Earlier India looked to post a more challenging score, after being put into bat they reached 77 for no loss in the eleventh over with Ajinkiya Rahane leading the way with 42.
But his departure to leg spinner Shahid Afridi sparked a major collapse as India lost nine wickets for 47 runs silencing the 36,000 strong crowd during which Pakistan put in some impressive bowling and fielding displays.
Sohail Tanvir’s throw on the bounce to Kamran Akmal lead to Ghambhir’s run out, as the wicket-keeper dislodged the bails. Kohli and Yuvraj began well but fell trying to heave the seamers over square, seven foot left armer Mohammed Irfan removed Kohli to bag his first wicket.
After Ajmal bowled out Dhoni and Raina, Umar Gul finished the Indian innings in real style dismissing Jadega and Ishant Sharma off successive deliveries ending with figures of 3-21, a sensational return having been hit for 13 from his first over.
In chase at 12-3 Pakistan were reeling as debutant Kumar ripped through the top order, their rebuilding was steady but veterans Hafeez and Malik pounced at the right time. Hafeez scored 61 with two sixes and six fours and Malik was unbeaten on 57 at the end.
As the required run-rate touched nine, Hafeez slogged picking up two fours in the eleventh over. In the next over the pair dispatched Yuvraj for two maximums as he dragged the ball short on a rare occasion. The return of the Indian seamers didn’t immediately create difficulties, as the equation was brought down to 16 from last three overs.
However, Sharma had Hafeez caught at deep and conceded only two runs in the over; he thought he also had removed Malik but the umpire called it a no-ball for height.
Kamran Akmal came and went cheaply, but Malik held his nerve in the end when he was joined in the middle by Afridi. The former captain launched Jadeja down the ground for a six seeing Pakistan cross the line with two balls to spare.
The T20 series will now conclude in Ahmedabad on Friday. The two nations will then play three one-dayers starting on December 30th.