Pakistan yet again came out of the shadows with mind boggling victories against India and Bangladesh.
Pakistan vs. India (Victors: Pakistan)
In a must win match against India, Pakistan chased down India’s total of 308 in 45.1 overs of the alloted 50. The youngsters and the debutants gave nice performances which had a lot of character to them. India’s blazing opening start was first stopped in its tracks by the young fast bowler Abdur Rauf who took 2 quick wickets and later the debutant Saeed Ajmal kept the Indians in check by giving just 47 runs off hi 10 overs with 1 wicket. Mind you, this was a flat track with nothing favoring the bowlers.
On the batting front, Nasir Jamshed and Salman Butt started aggressively and were scoring faster than their Indian opening counter parts (V. Sehvag and G. Gambhir). Salman later got run out and Nasir completed a half century but had to leave because he was cramping up. A quick loss of Muhammad Yousuf brought Younis Khan and Misbah together for a partnership that saw Pakistan through. Younis’s 125 off 117 was majestic and Misbah’s 70 was nothing short of remarkable either.
Pakistan’s performance renewed hopes of Pakistan reaching the finals of the Asia Cup. Had Srilanka beat India the next day with Pakistan beating Bangladesh later on would have seen Pakistan against Srilanka in the final. Unfortunately, India won against Srilanka. I would however like to add that India would be thankful to Srilanka for resting their spinner A. Mendis. I can without a doubt say that he would have wrecked havoc on the Indians looking at the form he was in. The possible reason I can think of is that Srilakans did not want India to play A. Mendis for if India were to reach the final, they would let him loose on India for the first time then. As tricky and hard as A. Mendis can be to handle, he can be the difference maker in the final.
Pakistan vs. Bangladesh (Victors: Pakistan)
For me this was a no contest. Pakistani bowlers ripped through the Bangladeshi batsmen and restricted them to a mere 115 in a tournament where scores above 300 were a norm. All the bowlers were simply unreal especially Abdur Rauf (8 overs, 1 maiden and 3 wickets by giving away 24 runs) and Iftekhar Anjum (10 overs, 6 madens and 2 wickets by giving away mere 20 runs).
With the bat, Bangladesh were again kept at bay with an opening stand that took Pakistan through. Half centuries for both Salman Butt (56 of 62 balls) and Nasir Jamshed (52 of 56 balls) awarded Pakistan a 10 wicket victory (Pakistan’s first in the Asia Cup) in the 20th over with 2 balls to spare.
Since India had already won against Srilanka, Pakistan’s victory did not take them to the final, but having said that Pakistan proved themselves a force to reckon with and shut off many mouths which doubted Pakistan’s capabilities as a world class team.