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.

Pakistan's Mohammad Nawaz smiles as he wears his helmet during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Super Four match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 4, 2022. — AFP
Pakistan’s Mohammad Nawaz smiles as he wears his helmet during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket Super Four match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on September 4, 2022. — AFP

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?

Players shake hands after the match. — Reuters
Players shake hands after the match. — Reuters

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.

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