The 10th edition of the Asia Cup saw archrivals Pakistan and India face off in a virtual knockout game for the former. Pakistan had played and lost their first match against Sri Lanka, while India defeated Bangladesh in their opening encounter and a win in this game would have taken them to the final against Sri Lanka, making the Pakistan vs Bangladesh game to follow, a mere dead rubber.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi won the toss and elected to bat first against India at Dambulla. The top three batsmen Salman Butt, Imran Farhat and Shoaib Malik, built a pretty strong platform for Pakistan, and a total of 300 runs was looking likely at one stage when Pakistan were 144/1. But a slump followed, and Pakistan were reduced to 159/4.
With Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq falling before the batting powerplay, it seemed as if Pakistan would struggle to get to 250, but Kamran Akmal’s late cameo propelled Pakistan to a respectable total of 267. For the ninth consecutive ODI, Pakistan failed to play the full-length of their innings.
India lost the two crucial wickets of Virender Sehwag and Virat Kohli cheaply but had a pretty solid foundation laid by Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni and were cruising at one stage, needing 89 runs to win from 15 overs, with eight wickets in hand. Pakistan crawled their way back between overs 38 and 41, restricting India to just 15 in the process during these four overs. Shahid Afridi got rid of Rohit Sharma, and Shoaib Malik removed a well-settled MS Dhoni in quick succession, tilting the match in favour of Pakistan. At that stage, India required 58 runs from 46 deliveries, and two new batsmen were at the crease.
Suresh Raina and Ravindra Jadeja had the task to steady the Indian ship amidst the quick fall of wickets. With 50 runs to win from the last six overs, India took the batting powerplay. Shoaib Akhtar was brought back into the attack, and he didn’t disappoint his skipper Shahid Afridi, giving away a miserly single from that over and troubling both batsmen at the crease.
Saeed Ajmal brought about Ravindra Jadeja’s downfall in the 46th over but introduced Harbhajan Singh to the batting crease. On the other hand, Suresh Raina targeted Saeed Ajmal and his over yielded 13 runs, which narrowed the gap between runs required and balls left significantly. The two batters resisted against some witty Shoaib Akhtar bowling and managed to take the match into the last over, with seven runs still required for victory.
The last over began with Suresh Raina taking a single from the first delivery, but in trying to get the strike back from Harbhajan Singh, he lost his wicket, courtesy of some sharp bit of fielding from wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who seemed to have made amends for his earlier dropped catch. Praveen Kumar joined Harbhajan Singh at the crease and managed three runs from his first two deliveries, giving the strike to his partner on the penultimate delivery, with three runs still required. Harbhajan Singh managed to time one over the ropes off Mohammad Amir and raised his hands in delight. The defeat put an end to Pakistan’s journey at the Asia Cup, with a solitary match to play.
There is never a dull moment when India and Pakistan lock horns against each other. Sledging and feuds have intensified the Indo-Pak clashes over the years, and the 10th edition of the Asia Cup in 2010 was no different.
After Harbhajan had hit Akhtar for a massive six, the two players exchanged words in Punjabi. Harbhajan had the last laugh in that match as he finished off the game with a ball to spare, pointing towards Akhtar as if to say, “Go fetch that”. The two may have been friends off the field, but came across as fierce rivals off it.
The 2010 Asia Cup encounter between India and Pakistan is remembered for Gautam Gambhir clashing with Kamran Akmal at Dambulla. Akmal’s confident appeal for caught behind was denied by the umpire and tempers boiled over that particular incident. Indian skipper MS Dhoni had to intervene and calm things down when the aforementioned players were at each other’s throats.