Crowe: Dhoni's selection, use of bowlers outstanding
You don't often know what to expect in big India-Pakistan matches, but Pakistan are on to a disturbing trend of predictability of late. They work themselves up into a frenzy, try too many things, make too many mistakes, and India coolly stand in a corner doing little things right and stroll their way to a win. In the previous World T20 match between these two sides, Pakistan batted in a similarly nervous manner, got bowled out for 128, and lost despite a valiant attempt with the ball. Here they managed two runs more, succumbing to their own poor running and some clever spin bowling by India - in their 12 overs, the three specialists went for 63 and took three wickets - before putting up a fight with the ball, which was too little and too short.
Even in the lead-up, MS Dhoni spoke about how he was pleased a lot of acrimony had gone out of India-Pakistan matches, Mohammad Hafeez on the other hand sounded combative when asked about the lack of wins against India in World Cups. India were clear in their heads: they played three spinners, and didn't want to take a chance with the dew, so they put Pakistan in. Pakistan were a bundle of nerves.
Ahmed Shehzad ran out Kamran Akmal, who looked in good touch with his two early boundaries, before almost running himself out. With no loose balls on offer, Hafeez and Shehzad got more and more anxious before throwing their wickets away to Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra in the eighth and the ninth overs. It is a minor surprise that Mishra was only in his second Twenty20 international, but he bowled like a grizzled veteran for the most part. The delivery to get Shehzad was a beauty: for the batsman on the edge, he slowed a legbreak down, got some drift and dip, and drew as comprehensive a stumping as any you will see.
From 47 for 3 in the ninth over, Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik - the latter has feasted on Indian bowling in the past - tried a revival with a 50-run stand in seven overs, but the knowledge that a strong India batting lineup would need a total in excess of 150 to be challenged meant the percentages were always low. India again offered nothing loose, and Malik fell when trying to go inside-out off Mishra's bowling. He was beaten in the flight, the ball turned, and took a thick outside edge for long-off to catch.
What would have please India was that even in the last three overs - with the spinners' quotas exhausted - India conceded just 28 runs. The pitch was not the easiest to bat on, with good bounce and turn on offer, which would have actually left Pakistan a little more annoyed with their effort. About 15 more runs and their bowlers would have put India under serious pressure, especially with Shikhar Dhawan struggling at the top. Somehow, though, Dhawan scored 30 of possibly his most ungainly runs before falling. Rohit Sharma, who looked much better than Dhawan, managed 24 at a marginally better strike rate. Be that as it may, the two had given India a start, and despite a wobble in the middle Virat Kohli - in the company of Suresh Raina - did what he can do even in his sleep.
The only disturbing aspect of India's evening came through in this wobble: Yuvraj Singh had dropped a catch, conceded 13 in one over, and capped it off with a poor shot to be bowled for 1. That left India needing 66 in the remaining 9.5 overs, a situation that needs some panic from batsmen for some interest to be manufactured. No panic was forthcoming from Kohli, and once Shahid Afridi dropped Suresh Raina on 7 it was a cruise for India.
The key aspect of the finish provided by Kohli and Raina was how coolly they played Saeed Ajmal. Ajmal's analysis is worth a look: he was hit for three fours that Dhawan was not in control of, but still went for 18 runs and took one wicket in his four overs. However, the two India batsmen didn't show any desperation against him, and reached home with nine balls to go.