India had entered the first T20 World Cup half-hearted. At least, that was the indication by looking at the squad that was picked. When the tournament ended, India were the winners. The players who appeared to have been a part of a second string side had actually written history.
Their first game of the tournament against Scotland was washed out and the two teams shared the points. India had to win the second match to qualify or maybe, lose by a small margin to push Scotland out. The team they had to win the battle against a country called Pakistan, their arch-rivals for the last 60 years.
This was going to be the first T20 match between India and Pakistan. And the fans were oozing out nervousness and excitement. Both the teams had two new captains at their helm. India had someone who had never captained a national side ever. MS Dhoni.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first. That was the best thing to do because even if India had left Tendulkars, Gangulys out for this tournament, the team had enough batting muscle to crush the opponent. It was best to make India bowl last because defending a total for them was always going to be tough. Pakistan had a decent bowling attack and Shoaib Malik backed his bowlers to do the job for him.
And they, indeed, did the job.
India were bowled out for a paltry 141 runs for the loss of 9 wickets. The batting muscles were under some stress, we believe. Thanks to a valiant knock by Robin Uthappa, 50 off 39 balls, India could reach the total of 141 runs. The others were a disappointment for the team.
Pakistan had an easy target. They came out with an easier approach. Indians knew they had to bowl well and get all ten wickets to win the match. There was no point bowling 20 overs and winning it.
After a good start, Pakistan's first wicket went down in form of Imran Nazir, who wanted to smash each ball bowled at him as if this was a bread and butter for him. Turned out, he could have them but in the dressing room.
Salman Butt followed him and then one batsman returned to the dressing room after the other. Soon, they were 47 for 4 and at the crease were captain Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq, who was making a return to the Pakistan team after a long hiatus, at 33. But this was not the number he cared about. The number that he and Malik were focussing on was the target on the scoreboard.
The pair was able to add 40 more runs for the sixth wicket before Malik top-edged an Irfan Pathan delivery and Harbhajan made no mistake to catch it. India were back in the game but if nervousness was going to take its toll it was from now on. Shahid Afridi came but he did not last too long. His loss meant that Pakistan's chances were bleak now. Misbah disagreed. He carried on like he had all throughout his career and this inning was just a reflection of what was to follow.
He took Pakistan to victory, well, almost near it when a Sreesanth delivery hit the bottom edge of the ball while heaving it on the leg side. Misbah ran for the last run. This was never on the cards. That one ball could have made him a hero for his country. But it turned out to be a bad memory for him. The throw came in time to Sreesanth at the bowler's end and an already ageing Misbah could not reach the crease before Sreesanth dislodged the bails.
But wait, there is no tie in a T20 game. Indian fans could not believe what had happened, neither could Pakistan fans but the emotions were different in both the camps. India had lost this match, well, almost.
Pakistan does not want to lose to India and vice-versa and this was the ideal result. A tie. It happens so rarely. But not in this format. There was going to be a winner and a system to decide it.
Bowl Out, it will be!
The Bowl Out between India and Pakistan turned out to be the first and last one in international cricket. Indians had been fine tuning their bowl out skills in the nets, not knowing that their skills will be put to test so soon. Pakistan dressing room was dejected after having tied a game which they should have easily won. However, they had to lift their spirits and come out with their five best bowlers, who needed to hit the stumps and beat the opponents' score.
They named their bowlers- Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat, Shahid Afridi and -we-don't-know-others-because-they-were-not-required.
India named their bowlers too but half of their bowlers were not genuine bowlers but they could roll their arms for sure - Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa and Harbhajan Singh. They were picked on the basis of their performance in the nets.
Sehwag hit the stump from India but Umar Gul missed it. Uthappa hit it again for India but Yasir Arafat missed it again for Pakistan. Harbhajan got the leg-stump by a whisker but what was important that he hit it. India 3, Pakistan 0.
All the pressure was on Shahid Afridi who had to hit the stump to keep Pakistan in the hunt. He had left Pakistan embarrassed a while back by playing a shot which was not the order at the moment. Here was a chance to rectify the mistake but when was the last chance when Afridi wanted to rectify his mistake?
He bowled an off-break, which pitched on the leg-stump line and was a big wide if the right-handed batsman was batting. Indians started jumping and running around the stumps. Half an hour back, they were about to face their first defeat in the World Cup. Now, they had beaten Pakistan in the most unconventional fashion.
Not many knew that a more enthralling India-Pakistan game awaited them in the finals. Let's revisit that some other day.