Asia Cup 2014 March 3, 2014

'Surprise package' Talha delivers

Misbah-ul-Haq has said that Pakistan's strategy to use fast bowler Mohammad Talha as a surprise package worked against India. It was Talha's debut and he took 2 for 22 from his seven overs, delivering a spell that had more impact than the numbers suggest.

"We just brought Talha back after keeping him fresh [in the early stages of the tournament]," Misbah said. "We didn't play him in the first two games. We wanted to use him as a surprise package. He did well on debut against India, in such a huge pressure game. He bowled well, like he did in the Sharjah Test, which was also a pressure game."

Talha bowls faster than Umar Gul and Junaid Khan, usually hovering around the 140kph mark. He can add control to the Pakistan attack, as seen from his string of dot balls after his first over against India. Talha generally bowls short of a length as he did in his comeback Test against Sri Lanka a few months ago. He also has a big incutter and can straighten the ball at times with a fuller-length delivery, but generally he bowls short and gets the wickets.

Having already marked him out as a shock factor, Misbah brought him on in the 13th over. In the space of seven overs, he went on to make more of an impression on ODI debut than in his Test debut exactly five years ago.

On March 2, 2009, Talha took his first wicket but he had gone for plenty in 17 overs. The Test match is infamous for the attack on the Sri Lankan players on the third morning near the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. For the then 20-year-old Talha, it must have been a traumatic start to international cricket.

Coming into the India game in the Asia Cup having missed the first two matches, Talha was understandably nervous. He strayed on the pads once in the first over and was duly hit for four by Ajinkya Rahane. He soon settled down though, bowling two tight overs and building up his pace.

He had been bowling two lengths, either backwards of good length or fuller. The latter didn't work much, so he stuck to bowling quick and short. Soon, he preyed on Rohit Sharma's nonchalance, getting him to pull a delivery that wasn't entirely short. In fact, it was the distinction between his short and slightly short deliveries that worked in his favour.

Talha continued hitting these two lengths thereafter. At the end of his fourth over, he almost made Rahane hit one back at him, mainly because the batsman had been outfoxed by the length and the slowing down of the pitch.

By the time he had picked up Rahane's wicket, caught flicking an outside off-stump delivery, he had also built up enough dot balls to trouble India. There was definitely a second spell in him but a hamstring pull kept him away from bowling. Talha was pulled out by the physio who was seen treating him near the boundary in the 42nd over.

Still, having played a key role in the highest-profile match of the tournament, Talha will savour his ODI debut, especially given how March 2 turned out five years ago.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

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