India v Pakistan, Asia Cup, Mirpur March 18, 2012

'We didn't have any answers' - Misbah

When asked whether Pakistan preferred to play India or Bangladesh in the Asia Cup final, Misbah-ul-Haq smiled and said: "I can't control this." A Pakistan-India final will not take place if Bangladesh beat Sri Lanka in the final league game.

Misbah's words, however, might as well have been describing how he had felt on the field while Virat Kohli was mowing down the target of 330 to keep India in the tournament. Kohli seemed to have a plan for all six Pakistan bowlers and targeted each one.

Against Umar Gul, Kohli was slightly cautious but also hit a six over wide long-off. He was watchful against Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi as well, while against Saeed Ajmal he decided to stay deep in the crease and play into the arc behind square on the off side. He managed to hit six boundaries off Ajmal, whom Kohli said was "quick and able to turn both ways." While facing the left-arm pace of Wahab Riaz, however, it was a question of how many and how quickly. Kohli hit Riaz for seven fours in 17 balls - some pulled, a few flicked and one cover driven.

Misbah praised India and Kohli for the way they approached the chase. "First of all, credit to them. Whatever the wicket or conditions, chasing 329 is difficult. The manner in which they batted, they outclassed us.

"I think 329 is not a bad total. When you try to score 350-370, even making 329 is difficult," Misbah said. "With our bowling, 325-330 was our target. I think it was a good total but the way they played, we didn't have any answers."

Before Kohli wrested the game from Pakistan, though, Misbah's team had performed impressively. They had their second-highest opening stand in one-dayers, with Nasir Jamshed and Hafeez adding 224 runs for the first wicket. The new pair thrived against a bowling attack that lacked bite and their teamwork paid off: when Hafeez attacked Jamshed batted steadily, and then they switched roles. Jamshed scored his maiden ODI century, while Hafeez made his fourth.

"I think both played very well. Set a good platform for the team," Misbah said. "It's a good prospect for us that the openers are getting centuries and putting a good partnership at the top."

Despite playing an extra bowler, however, Misbah was unable to lead a successful defence in the field. It was the fourth time Pakistan had lost an ODI after scoring more than 300, and the first since 2000. Riaz was far from re-creating that magical spell in Mohali in the World Cup semi-final, while Aizaz Cheema had his worst day in international cricket.

"We planned to bat first so we strengthened our bowling. His [Riaz] confidence was good; he took five wickets against India. We took him on that, but sometimes your decisions don't pay off. It was a bad day for him.

"I think our bowling has won us a lot of games. If you look at the performance in the last year and a half, they have done really well. It was a test against India, so such a day was possible."

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka

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