Despite the drama that often embroils the Pakistan national cricket team on and off the pitch, they still demonstrate that they are a top-class Twenty20 squad. Paced by a half-century from Shoaib Malikâ€™s Pakistan defeated India in Bangalore, India.
The evening started with Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez inviting MS Dhoniâ€™s side to bat first, putting the onus squarely on his sideâ€™s batting line up who have traditionally had trouble chasing. The decision proved to be a big gamble at the outset as Gautam Gambhir (43) and Ajinka Rahane (42) blazed away, taking all including the 7ft 1in Mohammad Irfan to task. Irfan, to his credit, consistently bowled in the high 140s and provided some awkward moments for the batsmen. A combination of some great fielding and an inspired spell by Umar Gul (3-21), who went for plenty in his first over, meant the Indian innings came to a crashing halt and what at one point threatened to be 160-170 inched to 133/9 in 20 overs.
Saeed Ajmal was not missing in guile and control though, and snapped up 2-25 from his four overs. Rookie Indian bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar toyed with the top-order. His ability to jag the ball both ways left acres of space between the bats and pads of Nasir Jamshed and Umar Akmal. Kumar also accounted for opener Ahmed Shahzad and finished with astonishing figures of 4-9-3.
It was left to Hafeez and Malik to stage a rally. Hafeez put paid to recent criticism of his batting ability to notch up a confident 61 off 44 balls, that included four boundaries and two sixes. Malik, too, paced his innings brilliantly and pulled out the odd big stroke at the most crucial moments. He remained unflustered by the loss of his captain and a colourful exchange between Ishant Sharma and Kamran Akmal to remain unbeaten at 57 from 50 balls, hammering three fours and three sixes, the last of which saw Pakistan, needing 10 to win in the last over, inch over the line with two balls to spare.
Hafeez was named Man of the Match for his efforts. The second Twenty20 starts in Ahmedabad, Gujarat State in India on December 28th.