Amjad Javed led the way as UAE created a flutter, pushing hard and raising hopes of an upset win against Pakistan in their Asia Cup 2016 match at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur on Monday (February 29), before Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik made sure the experienced team came through in the end.
Pakistan was chasing 130 – not big, but not bad in what has been a low-scoring tournament. Amjad, who had returns of 3-25 and 2-34 against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh respectively, was in the game straightaway, first sending Sharjeel Khan back lbw and then catching Khurram Manzoor’s edge with one that bounced a bit.
Both wickets came in the second over of the Pakistan innings. And if that wasn’t enough, he came back in the fourth over to dismiss Mohammad Hafeez, caught on the drive in the covers. Pakistan was 17 for 3 and a massive result was in the offing in what was Pakistan’s 100th Twenty20 International – the first team to play that many.
But with Akmal and Malik determined to ensure the opposite, the runs were knocked off in 18.4 overs, a seven-wicket win putting Pakistan on the points table.
The two of them started slowly, weathered the storm, and gradually started building momentum. A cover drive Malik hit off Amjad in the sixth over of the innings was probably the shot of the match, so perfect it was in its execution. But that was a rare boundary in what was otherwise a quiet period where Akmal and Malik steadied the ship without worrying about the required rate.
The batsmen gave themselves till the 14th over, which started with the total at 75 for 3, before getting a move on. And move on they did, starting with Malik driving Mohammad Naveed, the paceman for a four first and Akmal pulling the bowler for a six two balls later.
The runs flowed from there on, Usman Mushtaq putting down a catch from Malik at deep square-leg with Pakistan still 40 away the only blip in what was otherwise a wonderful batting effort, exactly the sort of partnership Pakistan would have hoped for to revive its campaign.
Interestingly, Amjad’s last over, the 18th of the innings, was when it changed decisively in Pakistan’s favour, as Akmal hit six, four and six off the first three balls and Malik ended the over with another six, hoicked far and long over the long-on boundary, to end on 63 not out from 49 balls, with seven fours and three sixes. Akmal finished unbeaten on 50 from 46 balls with two fours and three sixes.
It was in the 13th over of the UAE innings, bowled by Shahid Afridi, that things started looking up for the Associate nation, which had opted to bat, and it started with a mis-field via slash-cut from Shaiman Anwar going through point for four. The next two deliveries were also sent to the fence, and UAE had suddenly gone from 53 for 4 to 70 for 4.
Anwar, who had been the only UAE batsman till then to look composed and in control, almost holed out in the next over when he sent one high between mid-on and deep midwicket, but Malik and Hafeez both went for it and then both let it go. He was gone one ball later though, caught behind off Mohammad Irfan for 46 in 42 balls.
But the flow had changed, and Amjad and Muhammad Usman got going with some serious enterprise. At the toss, Amjad had hoped for 120. UAE topped that score well.
Usman took a toll off Malik’s offspin, while Amjad mixed brute force, good timing, and a fair bit of inventiveness to hit big off the pacemen – all apart from Mohammad Amir. Amir didn’t quite make the ball talk and sing like he did against India, but he did send in four overs of superb pace, swing and beautiful lengths for one, none, one and four runs, the second a wicket maiden, as he finished with 2 for 6.
It was a pretty interesting innings if we look at some numbers.
* UAE scored 129 in 120 balls, of which 72 were dots
* There were six wide balls, in which seven runs came, and two leg-byes – so nine extras in two balls
* A total of 88 runs – 13 fours and six sixes – were scored in 19 balls
* That meant only 32 runs were scored in singles and doubles, in 27 balls
Between the big hits towards the end – 53 runs were scored in the last six overs – there wasn’t much running. It probably came down to inexperience, which made the batsmen think big and ignore the small, especially against the high-quality Pakistani pacemen.
If that had been worked into the plan, UAE could well have added another 15-20 runs, which could have made a crucial difference in the end.