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Afridi heroics sink Indians

Mirpur (PTI): Veteran all-rounder cracks 18-ball 34 as Pakistan edge home in thrilling contest.

India paid the price for costly blunders at crucial junctures to suffer a nerve-racking one-wicket defeat at the hands of arch-rivals Pakistan, who rode on Shahid Afridi’s brilliant cameo to virtually assure themselves a berth in the final of the Asia Cup here on Sunday.

In a tense encounter where fortunes fluctuated from one team to other till very end saw Afridi the turn the game decisively in Pakistan’s favour by hitting successive sixes in Ravichandran Ashwin’s last over — final over of the match too — to overhaul India’s modest total of 245.

Afridi, who has been very inconsistent with the bat, hit the first six over deep extra cover and the next over long on as he scored 34 not out in only 18 balls with two fours and three sixes.

Dinesh Karthik’s woeful work behind the stumps again cost India dearly as he missed the easiest of stumpings when Ashwin fired one down leg side with Sohaib Maqsood (38), then batting on 21 coming out of charge. Karthik failed to gather the ball and missed the stumping with Pakistan on 167 for four.

Mohammed Hafeez (75) and Maqsood added 87 runs for the fifth wicket and after IPL’s new million dollar man Karthik fluffed his lines, they added another 37 runs which proved to be important in the context of the game.

From 200 for four, Pakistan slumped to 203 for six but then winners had couple of profitable couple of overs — 45th and 46th when Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar went for 13 runs each.

Hafeez for his all-round show (two for 34 and 75) rightly got the man of the match award. Hafeez’s innings had three fours and two nicely hit sixes including a pulled one off Mohammed Shami’s bowling.

With this defeat, India’s chances of making it to the final are all but dashed while a Pakistan versus Sri Lanka summit clash looks imminent.

For India, leg-spinner Amit Mishra (2/28 in 10 overs) bowled a brilliant spell getting into the playing XI after a long time while Ashwin was also pretty good even though it all got spoiled in the end due to those two sixes hit by Afridi.

It can now be safely concluded that Karthik has blown away a golden opportunity he had got in Dhoni’s absence with two absolutely shoddy performances behind the wickets. In the last game, he missed Kumar Sangakkara’s stumping chance and it cost India the match.

On?Sunday, Maqsood’s missed stumping helped Pakistan score extra 30 runs and who knows a wicket at the stage would have helped India.

Earlier, Ravindra Jadeja (52) hit a timely unbeaten half-century as India recovered from a mid-innings collapse to post a modest 245 for eight in 50 overs. Opener Rohit Sharma (56), who finally found his touch after a lean patch, and Ambati Rayudu (58) also did their bit but none of the batsman could make it big. However, India had at least something on board to fight for. Rayudu scored 58 from 62 balls, while Jadeja was unbeaten on 52 from 42 balls (4×4, 2×6).

Experienced spinner Saeed Ajmal (3/40) bowled nicely in the death overs to remove three batsmen while debutant pacer Mohammad Talha (2/22) and off-spinner Mohammed Hafeez (2/38) took two wickets apiece.

Jadeja made full use of his reprieve on 12 when Hafeez dropped a sitter to post his ninth century.

It was Hafeez, who trapped Dhawan to give Pakistan their first breakthrough but India had the match in control with Sharma and Kohli in the middle.

Rohit’s approach was different from what he looked after a poor outing in South Africa and New Zealand. He pulled Gul over square leg to break free and he showed no mercy against pacer Junaid Khan, punching the left arm pacer for consecutive six and four.

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