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In what was another grandstand finish, Pakistan defeated India by five wickets in their Asia Cup 2022 Super Four match in Dubai on Sunday. Here are our five takeaways from that thriller:
1- Babar’s lean patch a blessing in disguise
Such lofty are the standards set by Babar Azam that a sequence of failures in three matches qualifies as a lean patch. Scores of 10, 9 and 14 in his last trio of outings mean he is now officially out of form. For anyone else, this would go unnoticed but for Babar it is a strange run considering he averages almost 44 runs an innings in T20I cricket.
That said, Babar’s barren run has actually proved a blessing in disguise for Pakistan. It has been known for quite some time that Pakistan are top heavy and rely heavily on their front three, especially Babar.
However, his failure, at least in the latest India game, provided others with the chance to step up and prove themselves as a future asset for clutch situations. And that someone was Mohammad Nawaz.
2- New hero is born in Nawaz
Speaking of Nawaz, what an Asia Cup he is having. The all-rounder was picked ahead of more high-profile Imad Wasim and he has justified his selection in an emphatic way.
Three wickets in the first game against India, another three against Hong Kong and now a clutch 42 off 20 that turned the game on its head — Nawaz is an early contender for Pakistan’s player of the tournament.
His innings evoked the memories of another lefty’s clutch knock not so long ago. Forgotten man Haris Sohail had also bailed out Pakistan in similar fashion during a World Cup 2019 match against New Zealand.
3- Spin to the rescue
But long before he demonstrated his batting chops, Nawaz was pivotal in stopping India’s bulldozing advance towards a total of 200 plus. Together with Shadab Khan, Nawaz collectively conceded just 56 runs in their 8 overs, while also picking up three wickets combined.
Had it not been for spin, the task for second innings would have been so tall, it would have been nigh on impossible to get near it. In a way, Pakistan owe more to their spin than to batting for the win.
4- Unavoidable runs
Pakistan gave up 14 runs in extras while Fakhar Zaman’s bizarre antics in the field cost the team two boundaries as the innings drew to a close. Barring Fakhar’s individual mistakes, Pakistan’s collective fielding has been uncharacteristically decent across all three of their matches.
The extras combined with the boundaries total up to 22 needless runs given. Granted that some mistakes do happen and are unavoidable but such a high figure in a 20-over match should be a cause of concern.
5- India’s psychological edge a thing of past
The World Cup 2019 drubbing was branded a one-off or a freak occurrence by some. What of the super close match last Sunday and the impressive Pakistan win this Sunday then?
It is clear now that any psychological advantage that India enjoyed over Pakistan has now evaporated and parity is restored — at least in the shortest format — after a decade or so of Indian dominance.
No longer do we have to see lopsided Pak-India matches as both the teams are now on equal psychological footing. The future battles will be won or lost purely on the basis of talent and skills, which is good for the game.

It’s the 54th minute of the match on a lazy Saturday when West Ham’s Michail Antonio tries to tackle Chelsea’s Reece James, catches his shin instead, and ends up tripping him. James quickly gets back to his feet and the two men square up.
Antonio shoves James as if to say “get out of my face”, although he probably said much worse, which would be unpublishable anyway. But before the two could transcend their sport and kick each other instead of the ball, the ref intervenes to keep things civil.
That 10-second sequence, of which there were plenty more in the London Derby, carried more passion than the entire five-hour match played last Sunday between the so-called ‘fierce’ rivals Pakistan and India. And just so you know, Chelsea and West Ham’s is actually a low-key and almost waning sports rivalry. For the truly real stuff, see how Boca Juniors and River Plate play each other, see how ferociously the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics compete or pick any of the combat sports battles.
Pakistan and India are often billed as archnemeses, and for good reason. If there is one thing to come out of their decades’ worth of diplomatic tensions and armed conflicts, it is their cricketing rivalry. And yet last Sunday, the two combined to produce a game low on cricketing quality but high on brotherly love, hugs, nods of approval and smize.
Thankfully, both teams’ batters combined timidity took the game down to the wire and duped the fans into thinking it was a brilliant game when it was not.
Had it not been for the final-over finish’s amnesic euphoria, more would have noticed how dull a game it was.
The obvious missing ingredients were intensity, fierce competitiveness and dark arts, which have been the hallmarks of Pakistan-India cricket encounters since time immemorial. Just imagine what Javed Miandad of the 1992 World Cup have thought had he seen Mohammad Rizwan getting a bear hug from behind by Hardik Pandya. Would Gautam Gambhir and Shahid Afridi have indulged in such borderline PDAs? Do Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani’s docile body language go with the ‘bad boy’ attitude perfected by Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in the 90s and adopted by Shoaib Akhtar and others a bit later?
And what of Fakhar Zaman walking off by himself in an astonishing and totally unnecessary display of sportsman’s spirit that would have made Eddie Guerrero roll in his grave? Don’t even dive into historical Pak-India games for comparison. Let’s look somewhere else. Would David Warner have done the same against England? Would Virat Kohli have returned the favour had he been in a similar position in the second innings of the same game? Does one expect such generosity in any other sport? The answer would be no. In football, for instance, every foul call is contested by both sets of players no matter how obvious. That’s called playing hard and looking for whatever advantage — big or little — that’s coming your way. As players, your job is to play and let officials officiate. Of course, no one is asking Pak-India players to turn into on-field thugs and make a game of cricket a boxing match. Neither is anyone asking for displays of machoism. That would obviously be a gross misinterpretation of what is being said here. What is actually being asked is for them is to play this particular fixture like it has always been played and not turn the game into an event of political messaging and goodwill gestures. Let politicians and diplomats do that, and Lord only knows the two countries need better relations. But the players’ job should be to concentrate on on-field affairs only and protect the competitive sanctity of a sporting rivalry that is now as old as the political tiffs and is an entity in itself. The game has come a long way for Pak-India cricket teams to just be an extension of two perennially bickering neighbours. It goes without saying that once the game is over, once the ritual handshakes are done with, the competitive spirits need to cool off. What happens on the field should stay there, as it is done in sports all over the world. But while the game is still in progress, why dilute the intensity? What’s with the newfound obsession of being puppy dogs when it’s the bulldog attitude that made the matches between the two teams so riveting to watch? The two teams will have a go at each other again tonight in what’s likely to be round 2 of 3. Unlike last time, a defeat would be of greater consequence, which offers us a glimmer of hope that both the teams would fight harder and put forth a product that revives the true spirit of Pak-India rivalry.

TOWNSVILLE: Zimbabwe batting coach Lance Klusener (L) speaks with all-rounder Sean Williams during a net practice session on Tuesday, ahead of the second ODI against Australia at the Riverway Stadium.—AFP
TOWNSVILLE: All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been withdrawn from the squad for Australia’s five remaining One-day Internationals in Queensland over the next two weeks because of an ankle injury.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Josh Inglis has been called up to replace Marsh for the remaining two matches against Zimbabwe in Towsnville and the three-match series against New Zealand in Cairns.
The withdrawal of Marsh with ankle soreness was precautionary given his importance to the Twenty20 team, who will defend the World Cup they won last year on home soil in October and November.
“Not ideal for Mitch, he’s been playing some good white-ball cricket recently,” former captain Steve Smith told reporters on Tuesday. “And obviously the way we set up our team the other day with bulk all-rounders, he was a big part of that. Disappointing for Mitch but there’s some pretty important stuff coming up.
“He was a big part of our T20 World Cup campaign last year and I’m sure there’s big plans for him this year, so the priority is to get him right for that.”
Marsh took the first wicket of the Australia’s 2022-23 season when he had Zimbabwe opener Innocent Kaia caught and bowled in the opening one-dayer on Sunday, which the hosts won by five wickets.
Smith, who scored 48 not out, was happy with his first innings of the season and said he hoped to become a fixture at number three in Australia’s batting order in short format cricket. “Who wouldn’t want to be facing the newish ball in any white ball cricket?” he added.
“That’s where my record’s probably best. I think I’ve done a reasonable job over a period of time at number three and, yeah, that’s my most comfortable spot.”
The second ODI against Zimbabwe takes place at the Riverway Stadium on Wednesday.

Pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi has travelled to London to continue his recovery from a knee injury but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is optimistic of his participation in the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia later this year.
Left-arm fast bowler Afridi suffered the injury in Sri Lanka last month and was ruled out of the ongoing Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates despite being named in the preliminary squad by the PCB.
“Shaheen Afridi requires uninterrupted, dedicated knee specialist care and London offers some of the best sports medical and rehabilitation facilities in the world,” PCB chief medical officer Najeebullah Soomro said in a statement on Monday.
“In the best interest of the player, we have decided to send him there. “The medical department will receive daily feedback on his progress ... and we are confident Shaheen will return to full fitness before the ICC Men's T20 World Cup.”
A medical panel would determine when the 22-year-old would return to competitive cricket, the PCB said.
Beginning on Sept. 20, Pakistan play seven Twenty20 Internationals at home against England before flying to New Zealand to play a tri-series also involving Bangladesh.
Former champions Pakistan begin their Twenty20 World Cup campaign with an Oct. 23 blockbuster against arch-rivals India in Melbourne.

India defeated Pakistan in a nail-biter of an Asia Cup 2022 match in Dubai on Sunday. Here are our five takeaways from the match:
1- Pak-India T20 cricket has become too toss dependent Cricket, perhaps, remains one of the few sports where toss matters so much. The eventual outcome of the game can be hugely influenced by a pre-game flip of a coin.
Of the 10 T20Is played between Pakistan and India, the side batting first has won just twice, which shows that chasing is clearly the way to go. Rarely does a captain win the toss and opt to bat first.
The last time this happened in a Pak-India T20, the year was September 2012 and Mohammad Hafeez was the skipper who had opted to bat first despite winning the toss. It was the wrong call and Pakistan ended up losing by eight wickets that night.
On Sunday, the luck was in favour of India, just as it was in Pakistan's favour last year. Rohit Sharma won the toss and did not even bother to announce what his decision was — probably because in his mind it was obvious what he was going to opt for. Not to take away anything from India, but that coin flip set the tone for the entire night, just the way it usually does in these ties.
Toss is a grand cricket tradition but maybe now is the time that cricket administrators would want to work out a better system as its replacement. That's because as of right now, the mantra pretty much is: win the toss, bat second and you're almost guaranteed to win the match.
2- Pakistan's weakness against short balls exposed The troglodytes among Pakistan fans would know that their beloved team's vulnerability against short, rising balls has existed since times immemorial.
That weakness makes sense too, since Pakistan batters do not get any bouncy tracks at home, and so anything short and they act like fish out of water. The Indian think tank spotted that the Dubai track was unlike a typical Dubai wicket and had something for the pacers.
The Indian bowlers kept their lengths short and brilliantly exploited the Pakistani weakness. It was a perfectly executed plan that deserves all the praises.
India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar unsuccessfully appeals for a LBW against Pakistan's Mohammad Rizwan during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international. — AFP 3- Top-heavy Pakistan need to sort out middle order Before the match, one of the talking points was Pakistan's over reliance on the top three of Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman.
The others below lacked experience and did not have a proven record of having done anything notable with the bat at this level and in such a high-profile affair. Khushdil Shah (2 off 7), Shadab Khan (10 off 9), Asif Ali (9 off 7) and Mohammad Nawaz (1 off 3) all failed, thus, proving that there are a few chinks in the armor that need fixing.
4- Naseem Shah comes of age The batsmen disappointed but the bowlers did not, and made a competitive match even though they did not have a big total to defend.
The pick of the bowlers obviously was Naseem Shah, was menacing in the opening over and found enough movement to trouble Indian top order.
An element of luck was involved in his dismissal of KL Rahul but he was luckless when he saw Virat Kohli dropped in the same over in the slip cordon. Had it been a double wicket salvo in over 1, things could have perhaps turned out very different.
Towards the end, Naseem was cramped up and bowled his second spell pretty much on one leg, which was a testament to his passion for the game.
5- Opportunity(ies) for swift revenge incoming Pakistan may have lost the game but the way this tournament is drawn up, there are good chances that these two would meet again, if not twice, then at least once.
Instant revenge could be on offer in few days to come, with the potential final stanza being in the final, provided that both the teams qualify.

DUBAI: India’s Virat Kohli has the chance to find form before the World Cup while Babar Azam will look to keep Pakistan’s psychological edge when the rival countries clash as the headline acts of the Asia Cup starting this weekend.
Cricket giants India and Pakistan could square up three times during the two weeks of the T20 competition in the United Arab Emirates.
The six-nation tournament was moved from Sri Lanka because of political unrest and it takes on extra significance this year because the T20 World Cup in Australia is coming up fast, in October and November.
Sri Lanka meet Afghanistan in Saturday’s opening match but all eyes will be on India and Pakistan, who clash in Dubai on Sunday.
India will be looking to avenge their 10-wicket humiliation by Pakistan at the same venue in last year’s T20 World Cup.
India head coach Rahul Dravid has Covid and India late on Wednesday appointed former batsman V.V.S. Laxman to take charge in an interim capacity.
The match will be Kohli’s 100th T20 international and a chance for the batting great to emerge from his prolonged slump before the World Cup.
The 33-year-old has not scored a century in any format since 2019 but should be refreshed after being rested for tours of the West Indies and Zimbabwe.
Kohli, who has 27 centuries in 102 Tests, was replaced by Rohit as all-format skipper earlier this year.
Pakistan’s fortunes will mainly depend on in-form skipper Babar, fresh from two big half-centuries in his team’s 3-0 ODI sweep of the Netherlands.
Babar, 27, tops the world T20 and ODI batting rankings and led his team to victory last year against India with an unbeaten 68.
Pakistan have brought in pace bowler Mohammad Hasnain in place of Shaheen Shah Afridi, India’s T20 destroyer last year, who has been forced out by a knee injury.
India vice-captain K.L. Rahul said his team was looking forward to playing Pakistan with the arch-rivals only meeting each other in multi-nation events due to political issues between them.
The neighbours have not played a Test since 2007, instead facing off only in the shorter versions of the game and at multi-team competitions on foreign soil, rather than head-to-head series at home.
“We are all very excited. As players we always look forward to this India-Pak clash as we don’t play each other anywhere else but these big tournaments,” Rahul told reporters on Friday.
“As we’ve seen there is a huge history, there has always been rivalry and the games have always been high intensity. As players we have always dreamt of playing India-Pakistan and it’s a great opportunity for all of us to challenge ourselves.”
Matches ignite great fervour but they have also defused military tensions between the two nations, which have fought four wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
Recently pictures and videos of Babar and Kohli meeting on the sidelines of a practice session in Dubai went viral.
“We can’t run away from the rivalry and emotion that comes through as a player,” Rahul said. “After the game or before, everything goes away you become normal people, learn from each other, share experiences, it’s always been friendly.”
Defending champions India, who won the last Asia Cup in 2018 when it was played over 50 overs, and Pakistan will be joined in Group ‘A’ by Hong Kong who defeated the UAE in the final qualifier on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in Group ‘B’.
The top two teams from each group progress to a Super 4 stage, which could witness another contest between India and Pakistan.
The great rivals could then meet for a third time should they both reach the September 11 final.
Sri Lanka, led by Dasun Shanaka, could be the India-Pakistan party-poopers.
They have a shown a lot of promise under new head coach Chris Silverwood and are capable of reaching the final, having enjoyed success in recent home series against a backdrop of a dire economic crisis.
Victory would bring some welcome cheer to the cricket-crazy island nation ravaged in recent months by food and fuel shortages and rolling blackouts.
Afghanistan, under the leadership of the seasoned Mohmmad Nabi, will be looking to beat the higher-ranked teams, something they were unable to in the T20 World Cup here last year.
They have the ability to upset any side, their ace being leg-spinner Rashid Khan, one of the world’s leading T20 bowlers who can exploit and turn in the subcontinent-like UAE pitches.
Bangladesh have been boosted by the return of all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan to lead the team, who said his priority was to see an improvement in performances of the struggling side with the World Cup fast approaching.
Though the conditions in the UAE will be different from what teams will be experiencing in the World Cup in Australia, all the competing sides will be looking to identify their final squad for the ICC event over the course of the next two weeks.

SYDNEY: Big-hitting Austra­lian batsman David Warner Sunday signed a two-year deal with Sydney Thunder, ending a nine-year absence from the Big Bash League. The 35-year-old opener has not played in the domestic Twenty20 competition since 2013 and said he wanted to get involved again to help support the next generation. “I’m really excited to get back to the Big Bash with the club where I started,” said Warner, a veteran of 96 Tests, 133 ODIs and 91 T20 games for Australia.

“I care deeply about the game, and I am conscious that the conditions that I enjoy as a professional cricketer have largely come from other senior players who have come before me. “That is how the game is structured and I understand that my contribution to the future of the BBL will hopefully benefit the next generation of players long after I am retired.” Warner has not represented Thunder since the third BBL season, where he played just one game. He also played a single game for them in the inaugural season, and has appeared once for the Sydney Sixers. He will join the team after his international commitments end in January and could be available for as many as five regular season matches.

“The club has a tremendous group of young talented batters and leaders, with the likes of Jason Sangha, Ollie Davies, Matt Gilkes and Baxter Holt,” said Thunder head coach Trevor Bayliss. “They will all benefit greatly from Davey’s experience and guidance.” The BBL season starts on Dec 13 when Thunder face the Melbourne Stars.

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