Pakistan’s 2008 Asia Cup ride was a bit of a roller coaster one. They started off by defeating Hong Kong comprehensively but were outplayed by archrivals India in the group encounter. Following a thumping defeat handed over by India, Sri Lanka outplayed hosts Pakistan by 64 runs. After the loss against Sri Lanka, Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson had a heated exchange in the post-match press conference which led to journalists boycotting the interaction. Pakistan were nearly out of the tournament and needed some special performance to keep them in contention.
Pakistan skipper at that time, Shoaib Malik, had pulled himself out of the encounter after failing to recover from dehydration. Malik’s loss was a crucial one as he had scored a hundred against India in the group stage and got a half-century against Sri Lanka albeit in a losing cause. Vice-captain Misbah-ul-Haq was handed over the captaincy in a must-win game for Pakistan.
On a rather benign surface, India, without a surprise opted to bat first and put on a massive score. Virender Sehwag was looking to take the game away from Pakistan but a double-strike from Abdul Rauf reduced the visitors to 91-3. Yuvraj Singh soon followed the rest of the batsmen as he was dismissed by a breathtaking catch from Sarfaraz while looking to steer the ball down to the third man. India were 129-4.
The duo of MS Dhoni and Rohit Sharma didn’t hold back from scoring at a decent rate despite losing four wickets quickly. Both put on a 112-run stand to transfer pressure back on the opposition. Irfan Pathan played a little cameo towards the end for his 25-ball 38 as India set-up a decent total of 308 from 50 overs.
Pakistan batsmen looked intimidating right from the start of the innings. Salman Butt took the initiative to Praveen Kumar’s gentle medium pace, cashing in on anything overpitched or slightly wide. Nasir Jamshed, on the other hand, preferred to step down the wicket to Kumar and hit him over his head. Both had given Pakistan a flying start before there was a mix-up between the two openers and Salman Butt fell short of his crease.
Younis Khan, the star of the match, started off sedately before gathering momentum as the innings progressed on. Jamshed had marched onto his fifty before the cramps cut-short his innings to 53. Younis, on the other hand, took on the spinners to his liking as he milked them around to all parts of the ground and using the sweep shot to a terrific extent. Piyush Chawla and Virender Sehwag didn’t have a great time bowling to Younis that day. Misbah-ul-Haq, on the other hand, scored over run-a-ball to take away any sort of pressure from his batting partner.
Younis crashed Praveen Kumar through point to reach his fifth ODI hundred and did a couple of push-ups. Possibly that was a tribute to Pakistan’s fitness trainer at that point who pushed him harder at the training. Pakistan won the game convincingly by eight wickets but they couldn’t make it to the finals. Sri Lanka had already stormed into the finals and there was a competition between India and Pakistan for the one spot. It was all down to India’s clash against Sri Lanka but India’s batting unit sealed the spot for their side.