There are few finer spectacles in sport than an India vs. Pakistan match at the World Cup.
In recent times, however, the two cricketing giants coming together has been something of an anti-climax. While India vs. Pakistan matches used to be tight, nerve-wracking experiences, many of the latest clashes between the nations have been rather one-sided affairs, such as Pakistan’s ten wicket win at the 2021 T20 World Cup.
Last Sunday, however, that all changed. Playing in their opening group match of the 2022 T20 World Cup, the two arch-rivals collided to put on one of the all-time classic T20 games.
India and Pakistan Produce the Match Fans Have Been Waiting For
The scene was set well before Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan walked into the middle of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Hours ahead of the match getting underway on Sunday evening in Melbourne, fans could be seen milling about outside the stadium donning their green or blue colors. By the time the Pakistani batters were taking their mark in the MCG, the country’s largest cricket ground was heaving with 90,293 supporters working themselves into a frenzy.
And they were not disappointed.
Contrary to Pakistan’s recent T20 matches, both openers failed and it was up to the middle order to build a total.
From 15/2, Shan Masood and Iftikhar Ahmed took Pakistan through to 91/3, with both batsmen going on to score half centuries at heathy strike rates of 123 and 150. However, following the dismissal of Ahmed for 51 off 34, India’s bowlers then tore through the rest of Pakistan’s middle and lower order. Outside of Masood and Ahmed, only Shaheen Shah Afridi managed double figures, smashing 16 runs from eight balls.
This effort was enough to take Pakistan through to a modest total of 159/8, with both Hardik Pandya and Arshdeep Singh finishing on three wickets.
Needing 160 to win, India found themselves 10/2 halfway through the powerplay, also losing both of their superstar openers cheaply.
The Indian position worsened soon after, with Suryakumar Yadav and Axar Patel falling to leave the men in blue stuttering at 31/4 early in the seventh over. Hardik Pandya and Virat Kohli then combined to take India through to the death, putting on an impressive 113 run partnership. However, Pakistan were bowling well, and with 28 runs needed off eight balls, it looked as though the match was won.
Enter: Virat Kohli.
Gone are the days of Kohli lacking his spark—there was plenty of that, as the batsman blasted Haris Rauf for back-to-back sixes off the final two balls of the 19th over. That effort set up India needing 16 off the last over, and then 13 off the last three balls as a wicket, and three runs came off the first half of the over. Mohammad Nawaz crumbled, however, bowling a no-ball that went for six, as well as two wides that meant scores were level with one ball to go.
Ravi Ashwin was clutch under pressure, with a single hit over the infielders taking India to 160/6 and a nail-biting victory over their neighbors.
Eerie Parallels to India vs. Pakistan at the 2007 T20 World Cup
Sunday night’s game was about as tight as it gets, without the match ending in a draw—which is exactly what happened when these sides first met in a T20 World Cup.
In fact, there are some eerie parallels between that meeting back in the 2007 T20 World Cup, and the one we’ve just witnessed.
Playing in Group D, the two juggernauts squared off in the 10th match of the tournament.
India batted first this time, and again their openers failed. It was up to the middle order to build a total, and Robin Uthappa struck 50 from 39 to provide a platform, before MS Dhoni and Irfan Pathan struck 33 from 31 and 20 from 15 respectively. Mohammad Asif excelled, taking four wickets for 18 runs from his four overs.
This effort by India’s middle order was enough for the men in blue to hobble along to a sub-par total of 141/9 from their 20 overs.
Pakistan then came out to bat with 142 needed to win, and never looked comfortable.
Wickets fell regularly, with the side slipping to 47/4 and then 87/5. Misbah-ul-Haq provided some much-needed go forward and consistency, putting together an impressive innings of 53 from 35. A lack of support for the middle-order batsman, however, led Pakistan to be in a position where 39 was needed from 14, and it looked like all hope was lost.
A six and a four to finish the 18th over by Misbah-ul-Haq helped rein in the run rate, before the 19th was taken for 17 runs off Ajit Agarkar. Twelve runs were needed off the last over, then only one run from the last two balls—however, Pakistan choked, conceding a dot ball and a wicket to leave the scores level.
India then performed under pressure to win the bowl-off and claim the match against all odds.
What are the Chances of India and Pakistan Meeting Again at this World Cup?
When India and Pakistan played that tight match at the 2007 T20 World Cup, they ended up meeting again in the final.
The question on everyone’s mind is: Will the same happen here in the 2022 T20 World Cup?
It’s been a week now since that breathtaking match between India and Pakistan, and a lot has changed since. India have solidified their position at the top of Group 2, thoroughly beating the Netherlands, while Pakistan now teeter on the edge of elimination, having suffered a shock loss to Zimbabwe in their second group match.
While there’s a chance the two could still meet in the 2022 T20 World Cup Final, it’s a slim one. For Pakistan to qualify for the semi-finals, they now need to win all their remaining matches, and rely on other results going their way. Here’s what has to happen:
- Pakistan need to beat South Africa, Netherlands, and Bangladesh in their remaining three matches
- South Africa need to lose to two of Pakistan, India, and Netherlands in their next three games
- India will then need to beat the second-placed team from Group 1, likely Sri Lanka or Australia
- Pakistan will then need to beat the top ranked team from Group 1, likely New Zealand or England
If all of these results unfold, then India and Pakistan fans will have a serious case of déjà vu, with this T20 World Cup panning out almost exactly the same as the 2007 T20 World Cup.