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Asia Lions 165 for 6 (Misbah 73, Tharanga 40, Binny 2-22) beat India Maharajas 156 for 8 (Gambhir 54, Kaif 22, Tanvir 3-27) by nine runs
Former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq rolled back the years with a splendid 73 off 50 balls that laid the foundation for Asia Lions' nine-run victory against India Maharajas in the first match of the Legends League Cricket Masters this season. His innings was countered masterfully by Gautam Gambhir's 54 - the only other 50-plus score of the match - but that proved insufficient, as Lions opened with a tight win in Doha.
Defending 165, Sohail Tanvir came to the fore for Lions with figures of 3 for 27, which included a maiden in the first over of the chase. Tanvir angled his first two deliveries away from Robin Uthappa's hitting arc, before the third was pitched short and defended with an angled bat. That set-up from Tanvir paid dividends in the very next delivery, as Uthappa attempted to hit Tanvir through cover but found Abdul Razzaq, who took a sharp, low catch.
But Gambhir found his rhythm quickly. His range of strokes included typical step-out shots against the spinners, including a drive through cover with the spin off part-timer Tillakaratne Dilshan. Gambhir was ably accompanied by former India opener M Vijay, who got a cameo of 25 runs off 19 deliveries laced with three boundaries and a six. However, following the dismissals of Gambhir and Vijay, Maharajas collapsed in the death overs in the face of an increasing asking rate.
Earlier, Maharajas' Irfan Pathan had initially set the tone for the first innings with a nostalgic spell of swing bowling. Each of his first few deliveries with the new ball displayed some lateral movement. His new-ball partner Ashok Dinda got the first breakthrough in the form of Dilshan.
Dilshan, with his footwork not quite at his best, ended up edging a full delivery outside off stump to Uthappa, who completed a juggling catch in the third attempt.
But Misbah quickly brought momentum into Lions' innings. He looked at ease, either when stepping out against the spinners or even the pacers, as evident from his six off fast bowler Parvinder Awana in the ninth over. Misbah's knock of 73 included two fours and four sixes, before he was dismissed in the 18th over off Stuart Binny's medium pace.
His former Pakistan team-mate Shahid Afridi displayed his typical aggressive intent from the outset. He successfully ramped one in the 18th over to fine leg, albeit off a top edge. Off the next delivery, he tried the same shot but miscued it straight to Harbhajan Singh at short fine leg.
Little else was new to the new T20 norm as Lions held their nerve, barring Harbhajan accidentally applying saliva to the ball, something which was banned post the advent of Covid-19.