Pallekele: Hardik Pandya made 87 while Ishan Kishan slammed 82 in a vital 138-run partnership for the fifth wicket in a remarkable recovery act to help India overcome a top-order collapse and make 266 in 48.5 overs against Pakistan in their first match of Asia Cup at Pallekele on Saturday.
But as soon as the mid-innings break began, persistent rain, which had caused interruptions twice during India’s innings, came back with greater force, forcing the ground to be fully covered.
With an inspection at 9 pm local time and cut-off time at 10:27 pm, the inevitable happened when handshakes happened all around, implying that the match was called off as rain had the final say.
As a result, Pakistan, the top-ranked ODI side, has qualified for the Super Four stage of the competition, making the India-Nepal match at the same venue on Monday a must-win for Rohit Sharma & Co to enter the next phase of the competition.
Under challenging conditions, India were reduced to 66/4, before Kishan and Pandya stepped up in a pressure situation to stitch an important partnership, with strike rotation keeping the scoreboard moving.
Kishan mixed sensibility with aggression as he made the most out of exhibiting counter-attacking batting from an unfamiliar position. Pandya was calmness personified in a high-pressure game and upped the ante after Kishan fell to dig India out of a hole.
For Pakistan, Shaheen (4-35), Naseem (3-36) and Haris Rauf (3-58) took all ten Indian wickets. Their spinners and fielders weren’t up to the mark in an action-packed India innings. Just when it felt the game would drift away from Pakistan’s hand, the pacers triggered another collapse as India went from 239-5 to 266 all out, before the rain arrived to play spoilsport.
Electing to bat first, Rohit Sharma slammed two leg-side boundaries via nonchalant flicks off Shaheen, who tested the openers well. Naseem also tested Rohit and Shubman Gill with pace, seam movement and some variable bounce.
After 25 minutes of rain interruption, Shaheen found some movement to beat Rohit twice and finally got his man when the left-arm pacer got one to nip back in and hit the top of the right-handed batter’s off-stump.
In his next over, Shaheen cramped Virat Kohli for room on an attempted punch, to which the right-handed batter could only chop onto his stumps. Shreyas Iyer, making a comeback in international cricket, immediately found his groove with a punch drive and flick off Rauf for two boundaries.
But the pacer had the last laugh in the final over of power-play as Iyer pulled his 147kph short ball straight to mid-wicket before a slight drizzle paused play for 20 minutes. Post resumption, Kishan upper cut off Rauf over deep backward point for six and got a leading edge past first slip for four to rebuild India’s innings.
Rauf came back in the 15th over and found some away movement on a 147kph delivery to rattle Gill, who could only inside-edge to his stumps. Kishan continued to rebuild India’s innings, hitting a brace of fours on low full tosses from leg-spinner Shadab Khan, followed by using Rauf’s pace to whip past deep square leg for a boundary.
Kishan would use his pulls and cuts against Shadab and Mohammad Nawaz to get his fourth consecutive ODI fifty in just 54 balls. From the other end, Pandya was calm, controlled, and calculative in his stroke play to keep the scoreboard moving.
Kishan brought up the century of the vital fifth-wicket partnership with a straight six over Nawaz’s head, followed by Pandya getting his 11th ODI fifty in 62 balls. The duo then took 16 runs off Nawaz in the 37th over -– Kishan nailing a backfoot pull for four, while Pandya smacked a slog-sweep for six.
The partnership broke in the next over when Kishan, troubled by cramps, miscued a short ball from Rauf and was caught by mid-on. Pandya indicated a shift in gears when he cut off his wrists, opened the bat face late and nailed the pull to hit three boundaries off Rauf in the 39th over.
Five overs later, Pandya was foxed by a slower delivery from Shaheen and spooned a drive to extra cover. It was followed by Ravindra Jadeja and Shardul Thakur falling in quick succession.
Jasprit Bumrah and Kuldeep Yadav added 19 runs off 24 balls before the duo fell quickly as India’s innings ended with seven balls left unused. Eventually, the rain won the end, depriving fans of what could have been a brilliant game of cricket after Kishan-Pandya’s fantastic rescue act.
India 266 all out in 48.5 overs (Hardik Pandya 87, Ishan Kishan 82; Shaheen Shah Afridi 4-35, Naseem Shah 3-36) against Pakistan