The Dubai Sports City is all set to host yet another historic encounter between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, as the cricketing giants take on each other in their Asia Cup 2022 fixture tonight.

A suspension of bilateral cricket ties between the two neighbours has resulted in them playing only nine T20 International matches in 16 years of the shortest format’s existence. India have managed to pull off seven wins whereas Pakistan have only won twice.

Irrespective of allegiance, an India-Pakistan game is watched all across the world and the focus of the cricketing globe is on the 22 men that take the field. With the game set to take place tonight, takes a look at a few iconic T20 clashes between the two nations.

2007 World T20 final: The cursed scoop shot

One year after adopting T20 format, the International Cricket Council held the first edition of the World T20in South Africa. Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led India and Shoaib Malik-led Pakistan both had decent campaigns and both made it to the final of the tournament.

It was a bright sunny day and so Dhoni elected to bat first. Gautam Gambhir’s elegant 75 off 54 balls and a quick-fire 30 off 16 by Rohit Sharma helped India get to 157. Spearheading the Pakistani bowling attack was Umar Gul, who took three wickets to restrict India to a total under 160, which is just what skipper Malik wished for before the game.

In reply, Pakistan lost its top order in a hurry before Imran Nazir and Younis Khan provided some stability by scoring 33 and 24 runs apiece. But wickets kept on falling and Pakistan were restricted to 104 for seven after 16 overs. However, the last four overs of the game were no less than a roller coaster of emotions. Misbahul Haq kept Pakistan’s hopes alive until the last over when 13 were needed off 6 deliveries.

The last over began with Joginder Sharma bowling a wide delivery, followed by a smack down the ground for a massive six off Misbah’s bat as Pakistan now needed a mere 6 off 4 deliveries. With tension running high, Dhoni left his mark and went to an anxious Joginder before he bowled the next delivery.

On what seemed like an easy delivery, Misbah moved across his stumps and attempted to scoop the ball over fine leg, only to see the ball hang up in the air before descending into the hands of Shanthakumaran Nair Sreesanth, who accepted the catch, making India the first-ever world champions of the T20 format.

As Haq went on his knees in disbelief, the Indians celebrated a historic victory.

The Indian team celebrates winning the 2007 T20 World Cup. — AFP/File
The Indian team celebrates winning the 2007 T20 World Cup. — AFP/File

December 2012: The first and last bilateral T20 series

Due to growing political tensions between the two countries circa 2012, bilateral cricket was a dream farfetched. However, December 2012 turned out to be miraculous as Pakistan paid a visit to India for a two-match T20 series followed by three One Day Internationals.

The game started off with Pakistan winning the toss and asking their hosts to bat first at a jam-packed Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

The hosts started off well, with openers Ajinkya Rahane and Gambhir taking the total to 75 for no loss in the 11th over until Pakistan’s star all-rounder Shahid Afridi provided his team with a breakthrough, which led to a collapse in the Indian batting order. The great Pakistan bowling attack, including Gul, Saeed Ajmal, and captain Mohammad Hafeez pulled the strings on India and restricted them to 133 in their 20 overs.

Pakistan’s innings started off with a surprise. The top order was bamboozled by debutant Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who reduced Pakistan to 12 for 3. In came Hafeez, who then ‘professored’ the innings with his elegant cover drives and cracking pull shots as veteran Malik provided stability to the innings.

In the 18th over, when the chase looked comfortable,Hafeez threw his wicket away to Ishant Sharma after a brilliant 61 off 44. Malik was on his way back the same over, but it was his day, as the umpires called him back because Ishant had overstepped and bowled a no-ball.

An India Pakistan game seems incomplete without a heated exchange of words, and that happened between Kamran Akmal and Ishant, who later took Akmal’s catch at third man and continued the aggressive show of emotions.

Malik kept his cool at the other end, as Pakistan were tasked with finding 10 runs in the last over, and Shahid Afridi made his way into the middle. Skipper Dhoni handed the ball over to left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja, who managed to keep Afridi quiet, but it was the steady and calm Malik, who shuffled towards his leg stump on the fourth delivery of the over, and hit Jadeja down the ground for a six. He then punched the air in delight and guided Pakistan beyond the finish line.

Pakistan lost the second T20 in a close contest, but continued their good run in the ODIs to beat India 2-1.

Oct 24, 2021: The Babar Azam factor

The two teams met a few times during the world T20s and in the Asia Cups, but all resulted in losses for Pakistan, as choking in an India-Pakistan encounter had become common for the men in green.

Pakistan had never beaten India in a World Cup game but that jinx ended on October 24, 2021. Both teams, led by two greats of modern-day cricket in Babar Azam and Virat Kohli came head to head in the opening game of the seventh edition of the T20 world cup. Known to choke in encounters against India, Pakistan did what no one expected them to do.

The two captains walked onto the centre, as Babar won the toss and elected to bowl first.

Babar Azam plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. — AFP/File
Babar Azam plays a shot during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. — AFP/File

In came the Pakistan pace sensation Shaheen Afridi, who trapped Rohit Sharma is front of the wickets in the very first over. In walked the star man Kohli, who respectfully saw off Shaheen’s sheer pace and got through with singles through Imad Waseem in the following over.

Next up was perhaps the delivery of the World Cup by Shaheen. As KL Rahul took his mark to face Shaheen, Shaheen ripped through his defence with a perfect inswinger that disturbed his off stump, and off went Shaheen in celebration. He bowled with such ferocious pace and movement that commentator Nasser Hussain said, “they cannot play him”.

After a shaky start to a nerve-wracking game, skipper Kohli showed his calibre and kept tackling the opposition’s bowlers with frequent boundaries and strike rotations, as Suryakumar Yadav aimed to increase his team’s run rate. But as he progressed, Hasan Ali put a halt to Yadav’s mission as the middle-order as the Indian batsman edged the ball straight to Muhammad Rizwan behind the stumps.

Kohli kept his calm, and in came Rishabh Pant, who played fearlessly and provided stability to the Indian innings with a 39 off 30. The then Indian skipper reached yet another half century and with Pant departing, Jadeja and Hardik Pandya played tiny cameos at the end to take India to 152 after 20 overs.

After the innings break, in came the Pakistani opening duo of captain Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. With Bhuvneshwar Kumar starting the proceedings for India, fearless Rizwan welcomed him with a flick through mid-wicket for four and a signature pick-up shot for a handsome six over square leg.

Azam joined the party with a classy off-drive and kept rotating the strike to exert pressure on the opposition. In came the Indian spin attack, which the opening duo saw off with care in its initial stage and exploded with boundaries in its latter half. Azam got to his half century, and Rizwan followed suit in the next few minutes.

While India kept searching for a breakthrough, the dynamic opening duo stood firm and gave the bowlers no chance to get them out. Almost there, Pakistan needed 17 off the last three overs, and as Mohammad Shami came to bowl his last over, it was Rizwan who showed no mercy on the veteran bowler and seized the game with a massive six over fine leg, followed by successive fours of the next two deliveries.
With a flick towards deep mid on, Azam punched the air and roared in celebration as he completed the second run to win the game for his team. The duo batted through, and Pakistan got over the line with a 10-wicket win.

Pakistan’s team members celebrate their victory at the end of the Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. — AFP/File
Pakistan’s team members celebrate their victory at the end of the Twenty20 World Cup match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. — AFP/File

The on-field rivals met each other with warmth and laughter post-match, which was heartwarming to see. Kohli acknowledged Pakistan’s dominance on the day in the true spirit of the sport.

Read more: Fans ecstatic as Green Shirts achieve historic win vs India

The Asia Cup anxiety

With the two Asian giants meeting on Sunday, pundits and fans across the cricket fraternity wait anxiously for the clash and expect the 10th T20i between both nations to be yet another iconic game.

Read more: Pak vs Ind: What makes this cricket fixture so special?

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