The much crictised Indian bowlers produced their best performance as a unit since the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England, eight months ago to setup a convincing seven wicket win over Pakistan in the opening match of the ICC World T20 2014.
Ever since winning the silverware in England, Indian bowlers in the shorter format of the game have been thrashed into submission at home and away. But on Friday, each of the five frontline bowlers, led by the attacking Amit Mishra kept Pakistan batsmen under constant pressure with great skill and accuracy.
The Indian bowlers only conceded three boundaries in the first five overs, including 19 dot balls and inflicted a direct hit in the field. The team should have been rewarded further in the sixth over, but Yuvraj Singh dropped a catch and the over went for 12.
In the past six months, an over such as the sixth has opened the flood gates but on this occasion, India had a genuine wicket-taking spinner to follow on from the pressure created in the power play.
Introduced in the seventh over, Mishra tossed the bowl up like a classical spinner and failed to bowl a loosener in his first spell.
The lack of runs off Mishra’s first over led to Ravindra Jadeja dismissing Mohammad Hafeez.
Then it was Mishra’s turn once again — he bowled a traditional flighted leg spinner that had Ahmed Shehzad grasping at thin air, half way down the wicket. India was getting rewarded for their resolute bowling.
“My strength is to toss the bowl up and try deceiving the batsmen. Along the way, I get tips from Dhoni and it gives me confidence. Today I did exactly that and I picked up the wickets and importantly helped India win” said Mishra at the end of the game.
Then the Indian bowlers struck again at the conclusion of the 15th over. Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik had put on 50-run stand and with 30 balls left in their innings, only three wickets down, a total of 150 looked certain on the current Indian bowling form.
But once again Mishra produced the goods as he dismissed Malik trying to hit out and only surrendered four runs. Once again an exceptional over was backed up by another one. Jadeja bowling the 16th and gave away only two runs. What followed was another stunning over by Mohammed Shami. The Bengal paceman not only gave away a mere two runs in the 18th, but also picked up the all-important wicket of Shahid Afridi.
After the match, the Pakistan captain stated the 16, 17 and the 18th over had changed the dynamics of the game.
“We were at a decent stage at the end of the 15th over and I thought with wickets in hand we should have got 150 but the 16, 17, 18th over really stopped our momentum.”
India yielded just 12 runs off the 16th, 17th and 18th overs, and that too when Afridi was at the crease.
India’s performance with the ball in Friday’s encounter against Pakistan highlighted the age-old notion that attack remains the best form of defence.