Everyone in the cricketing community was eager to see the rivalry continue between India and Pakistan. The last time these two teams met, in the final of the Champions Trophy, in London on June 18th 2017, Pakistan won by the very comfortable margin of 180 runs.
This was a completely different day, in completely different circumstances, and one never truly knows how differently Pakistan will play from one game to the next.
Pakistan won the toss and on another scorching day in Dubai, where temperatures once again reached above 40 degrees Celsius, Sarfraz Ahmed opted to bat first.
The opening spell by Bhuvi Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah was sensational, right from the first delivery of the innings, they were on the mark, no loose deliveries from either of them, they were spot on.
It was hard to imagine that this was the same India that played the previous night against Hong Kong, they looked rusty against Hong Kong, but against Pakistan, that rust had worn off.
Pakistan’s openers of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq were flustered by the lack of scoring opportunities. The discipline from India’s opening duo of Bhuvi and Bumrah meant the opening batsmen had to go looking for runs. It didn’t take long before the pressure of not scoring got to the batsmen and they both departed, Imam for 2 and Zaman for a duck. Pakistan were immediately on the back-foot at 3-2.
The experience of Shoaib Malik was key for Pakistan, he is the most experienced player in the Pakistan team (having played 268 ODIs, the next most experienced player is captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who’s played 92 ODIs) and his experience showed, as he and Babar Azam put on a fantastic 82-run partnership that was starting to guide Pakistan to a score.
Their partnership was broken when Babar Azam was dismissed close to his half century on 47 and Pakistan were in serious trouble. Their only hope rested on Shoaib Malik who was having some fortune, as he was also dropped twice, on 29 and then 38. His luck eventually ran out, as he was run-out for a well-made 43.
Pakistan crumbed as Sarfraz (6), Malik (43) and Asif Ali (9) were all dismissed as Pakistan lost 4-25 in the space of 7 overs.
India bowled Pakistan out for 162 in 43 overs, cardinal sin in ODI cricket – not batting out your full allotment of overs. It was a batting display that was full of desperation, with expansive strokes, not adjusting to the pace of the wicket and adapting to the match conditions.
Take nothing away from India though, it was an incredibly disciplined bowling performance as Bhuvi Kumar (3-15) and Kedar Jadhav (3-23) bowled beautifully to restrict Pakistan to a below par score.
If Pakistan were to have any chance of defending this low score, they had to strike early and regularly.
This did not happen as India’s experienced openers of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan put on 86 runs for the opening stand, as stand-in captain, Sharma made his 35th ODI half-century.
It was a comprehensive win by India, as they won by 8 wickets with over 20 overs to spare. This is why you can never write India off in the limited overs format, they are strong, they are experienced and above all else, they are disciplined. Pakistan on the other hand, typically unpredictable.