Rohit Sharma, left, congratulates Pakistan's Khushdil Shah | AP
Dubai: Mohammad Rizwan smashed his second successive half century and Mohammad Nawaz made 42 off just 20 balls to set up Pakistan’s highest successful run-chase in a Twenty20 against archrival India in their Asia Cup Super 4 match on Sunday.
Rizwan scored 71 runs off 51 deliveries while Nawaz hit six fours and two sixes to dominate the middle overs as Pakistan reached 182-5 with a ball to spare in the five-wicket win.
India’s top three batters helped to fire the side to 181-7 after Pakistan had won the toss and elected to field.
Iftikhar Ahmed finished off the game with two runs off the penultimate delivery as experienced fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar was smacked for 19 runs in a crucial 19th over which took the game away from India.
Virat Kohli’s brilliant 60 off 44 followed a 54-run opening stand between captain Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul, who both made quickfire 28s and charged against the three fast bowlers in the powerplay.
Pakistan, which conceded 93 runs in the first half of the innings, didn’t allow Indian power-hitters to score freely in the latter half, thanks to Shadab Khan (2-31) and the left-arm spin of Nawaz, who grabbed 1-25 off his tidy four overs.
“I didn’t fire today but Nawaz and Rizwan’s partnership was outstanding,” Pakistan skipper Babar Azam said after he got out for a below-par knock of 14.
“Our spinners and fast bowlers at the death set the stage for us.”
Kohli, whose batting form was being questioned before the Asia Cup, silenced all his critics with a gritty knock off 44 balls which featured four boundaries and a six.
Shadab had Rahul caught at long on while Nawaz got the key wicket of Suryakumar Yadav in the 10th over and then also caught dangerman Hardik Pandya for zero at short midwicket.
Kohli and Deepak Hooda (16) tried to raise the tempo but both fell in successive overs as India could score only 88 in the last 10 overs. Nawaz neatly caught Hooda at long on and Kohli couldn’t scamper for two and was run out in the last over.
Pakistan’s only blemish in the field came off the last two deliveries when Fakhar Zaman conceded two successive boundaries off Ravi Bishnoi’s bat with the second one bursting through his hands at cover boundary.
Rizwan and Nawaz switched gears once Babar fell and Zaman holed out in the deep for 15 after laboring for 18 deliveries.
The right-and-left combination of Rizwan and Nawaz smashed 73 runs off 41 balls and dominated leg-spinners Bishnoi and Yuzvendra Chahal before both batters fell in the death overs against fast bowlers.
“We needed 10 runs per over when I walked in to bat so I knew I had to attack on every chance I got,” Nawaz said. “I didn’t try and overplay, which you sometimes can when you’re under pressure.”
Nawaz finally holed out in the deep off a brilliant off-cutter in Kumar’s return spell while Rizwan, who hit six fours and two sixes, also got caught at long off in the 17th over.
India lost a golden opportunity to make a comeback in the 18th over, but Arshdeep Singh dropped a sitter at point to give Asif Ali a reprieve against the bowling of Bishnoi.
Asif, who had not scored any runs at that stage, went on to hit an eight-ball 16 before Arshdeep claimed his wicket in the last over but it proved too late.
“I thought it was a good score, but if you don’t pick wickets in the middle, it’s going to be tough,” Rohit said. “Games like this can bring the best out of players … there’s potential in the players and they’ve done it in the past, but there’s class in the opposition team as well.”
It was India’s first loss in the tournament as Pakistan avenged its five-wicket defeat against its subcontinent neighbor in the opening match last Sunday.
Sri Lanka, which beat Afghanistan in the first Super 4 game, will take on India on Tuesday. All four teams will play against each other once with the top two qualifying for the final next Sunday. AP