The ICC World T20 kicks up a gear as Pakistan and India face off in arguably the fiercest rivalry in international cricket. Who will prevail in this crucial Group 2 match-up?
India v Pakistan: Saturday, March 19, Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
Pre-tournament favourites India find themselves suddenly under pressure after a total batting collapse saw them defeated by New Zealand in the opening fixture. After restricting the Black Cats to a below par score, the much vaunted Indian line up capitulated to 79 all out to leave themselves with little margin for error for the rest of the tournament.
Pakistan meanwhile put their disrupted tournament build up behind them to dismantle a talented Bangladesh side by 55 runs – a large margin of victory for this format. Shahid Afridi starred with both bat and ball, and will be equally motivated to face his countries great foes in front of a partizan home crowd.
So far, bat has dominated ball at Eden Gardens – where Pakistan won their opening fixture – so it will be interesting to see what kind of pitch we see in this one, after India struggled against New Zealand’s spinners on March 15th.
Virat Kohli: Kohli was one of only a couple of Indian batsmen that didn’t completely let himself down against New Zealand, but a score of 23 at less than a run a ball is still nowhere near what he’s capable of. Most batsmen have found things easier going at Eden Gardens, so a big performance will be required.
Pakistan made over 200 at the ground in their first game, and India will need a hug innings from Kohli if they are to approach that. His average of over 50 in T20 internationals – and status as player of the tournament from 2014 – suggests he can deliver.
Ravichandran Ashwin: On a VCA Stadium pitch where spinners were thriving, Ashwin’s figures of 1/32 were noticeably poor for a player considered one of the world’s best. He failed to deliver in that game, but with their tournament hanging in the balance India need their match winner to improve.
Shahid Afridi: The occasionally overrated “Boom Boom” sometimes flatters to deceive for Pakistan, but in their opening match he was everything his reputation suggests. He smashed several huge sixes in a 19 ball 49 to take the game away from Bangladesh, and then cleaned up their middle order with a couple of wickets.
With seven Indian wickets falling to spinners of inferior caliber than Afridi against New Zealand, he’ll be salivating at the chance to bowl against a batting line up that has to be suffering some doubts. Can he follow up his great performance with another? We shall see.
Mohammad Hafeez: Unlike Afridi, Hafeez has been a model of consistency for Pakistan in recent years, and he delivered once again against Bangladesh. The opening batsman hit nine boundaries to top score for his side with 64, and set the innings up for Afridi to do his thing at the end.
India are sure to be extremely fired up for this game, and the early wicket of Hafeez will be all the encouragement they need to spark some momentum. He’ll be extra motivated not to give his opponents even a hint of confidence and it should manifest in another good score for the captain.