Pakistan beat India by 5 wickets in their second match-up in the Asia Cup, but that bland statistic belies the epic proportions of the match and the drama of the last few overs. Turning point? Arguably Babar Azam’s decision to promote Mohammad Nawaz up the order when Pakistan were two wickets down.

Skipper Babar had departed early and after Fakhar Zaman got out with the score at 88, Pakistan needed to dig in. Opener Mohammad Rizwan anchored the other end scoring a stellar 71 off 51 balls and Nawaz’s 42 off 20 balls became the game changer.

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The Rizwan-Nawaz partnership of 73 in just 6.5 overs in the mid-stage of the innings had the Indians napping. The left-handed all-rounder smashed six boundaries and two maximums. He targetted Chahal, Pandya and Bishnoi all through his innings. 

With those two steering the side to the 16th over, when Nawaz got out, Pakistan were firmly in the driving seat at 136 for 3, chasing India’s 181 runs in 20 overs. At the end of that over Pakistan needed 43 runs from 24 balls.

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But Rizwan got out in the next over to a Hardik Pandya ball, and there were two new batsmen at the crease, That was when Arshdeep Singh dropped Asif Ali in the 18th over bowled by Ravi Bishnoi, grounding a sitter. Asif said thank you very much by punishing Bhuvaneshwar Kumar in the next over with a six and a four, with Pakistan scoring a total 19 off the 19th over.

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Needing 7 in the last over, Pakistan won with a ball to spare, not before losing Asif Ali’s wicket in the fourth ball of the over. Lbw to Arshdeep Singh. Revenge came too late.

In a post-match press conference, India ace Virat Kohli, said, “Nawaz’s innings was the gamechanger. His 42 was an impact innings.”

Babar Azam tweeted, “this team of champions delivered in a nail biting gane (sic). Magnificent innings from @iMRizwanPak and Nawaz.” The Pakistan captain dedicated the big win against India to “all those people back in our Pakistan fighting with the floods.”

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In the India innings, Virat Kohli found form top scoring with 60 runs, but an early advantage that openers Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul scripted in the p[owerplay with a 10 plus run rate, was frittered away by the middle order as wickets fell at regular intervals slowing the pace of making runs. India made 181/7. Not a score to sneeze at, but ten runs too short.

India now play a must-win match against Sri Lanka and also beat Afghanistan, to make the finals of the Asia Cup. Pakistan needs to win one of its two next matches. Against each other, they have now won a match apiece. Will there be an India-Pakistan final in Dubai on Sunday next, September 11?

Six teams are playing in the ongoing Asia Cup 2022 – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong. India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan qualified for the super 4 round and are playing each other to decide the two finalists.