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Pakistan prevail

Kamran Akmal played a match-winning innings for Pakistan.

COLOMBO – A day before the World Twenty20 begins in Sri Lanka, India’s bowlers failed to defend 185 in a warm-up game after R Ashwin had reduced Pakistan to 91 for 5 in Colombo last night.

Kamran Akmal’s sustained assault finished the game with nearly an over left. Barring Ashwin, Kamran toyed with India’s bowling as he swung six after meaty six in the company of Shoaib Malik, who bettered even Kamran with a strike-rate over 200 for his 37. What will worry India further is that they lost despite the use of five frontline bowlers, the warm-up game effectively allowing them the Supersub.

Pakistan won’t be complaining, though. after an indisciplined show from their bowlers, they had their task cut out when they came out to bat. They started in belligerent fashion, but lost two wickets in Ashwin’s first over. Kamran, though, made sure the momentum was not lost. He began with a good-looking cover-drive for a couple first ball, and lofted the second ball he faced for a six.

Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh then suffered at Kamran’s hands before Ashwin came back to turn it around it with a mid-innings spell. In the 10th over he had Hafeez and Shahid Afridi caught at the boundary, before diving full length to his right to catch Umar Akmal off his own bowling. At that stage it seemed Pakistan had messed the chase up by playing around too much with the batting order, but Malik and Kamran had other ideas.

Sensible batting followed before the turnaround started in the 15th over when Kamran swung Zaheer Khan for successive sixes over long-on, and Malik drove him for four over mid-off. While runs seemed all too easy, the key over remained Ashwin’s. All Indian eggs seemed to be in his basket as Kamran and Malik basically had their way with the others. By the time Ashwin came on to bowl the 18th over, the equation had changed completely.

Pakistan needed 29 now, and they could afford to take it easy in Ashwin’s over. They were content with risk-free seven runs off his over, knowing well they could hit the others. And hit others they did. Kamran walked way across to Balaji in the 19th over to sweep a low full toss for a square leg over six, and Malik matched it with a loft over long-off to leave only six to get off the last over. Irfan conceded it through one loopy full toss.

Finding form

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for India, though, as one of their main batsmen extended his golden form, and another found some much-needed form. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma powered to fifties in a century partnership that seemed to have given India enough. While Kohli’s was just an extension of an incredible run, Rohit’s showing in both warm-up matches – he made 37 against Sri Lanka on Saturday – will be a big relief for the management. The only downside of Kohli and Rohit’s dominance was that Yuvraj Singh has now faced just 17 deliveries in both warm-up games put together.

Kohli’s supreme touch was evident when he nonchalantly clipped his first delivery through midwicket for four in the fifth over. His confidence spurred him to step out consistently to the Pakistan spinners. Rohit found confidence as his innings grew, and even overtook Kohli on the scoreboard briefly. Their partnership of 127 came at close to 10 runs an over. Like Ashwin for India, the Pakistan bowling unit had Saeed Ajmal fighting a lone, losing battle. He went at under a run a ball while others bowled poorly under pressure.

Kohli and Rohit found a way around Ajmal quite appreciably, but they were to find out the same done to their bowling unit, only much more emphatically. (Cricinfo)

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