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Asia Cup Throwback: When Shahid Afridi's two last over sixes broke Indian hearts

Asia Cup Throwback: The age-old rivalry leads to a painful Asia Cup 2014 memory for Indian fans when Shahid Afridi dashed India’s hopes with two sixes.

Asia cup 2014_ India lost to Pakistan; courtesy Shahid Afridi's two sixes  _ Walking wicket (Images_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Virat Kohli captained India in MS Dhoni's absence (Images: ©Twitter)

By March 2014, four years had passed since Harbhajan Singh had nailed Mohammad Amir for a six to seal an India-Pakistan Asia Cup game in Dambulla. Meanwhile Afghanistan began to take giant strides in One Day International (ODI) format, and the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) had expanded the 2014 Asia Cup, in Bangladesh, to five teams.

Flamboyant Sri Lanka got off to a terrific start in the tournament, beating both India and defending champions Pakistan in their first couple of games, and looked like they were all set to enter the final.

With India beating Bangladesh and Pakistan getting the better of Afghanistan, it was imperative that the India-Pakistan match- the first of the 2014 edition to be held in Mirpur- would be a semifinal.

Stand-in captain Kohli led India in injured Dhoni’s absence

All wasn’t going well for India at the start of 2014, the team had lost the away ODI series to New Zealand by a huge 4-0 margin, with the third Auckland ODI ending in a tie.

To make it worse, India’s regular captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was ruled out of Asia Cup 2014 after sustaining a Grade 1 left side-strain injury, as a result the leadership responsibilities were handed over to the stand-in captain Virat Kohli.

Half-centuries from Rohit, Rayudu, Jadeja propelled India to a decent total

After winning the toss, the Pakistani captain Misbah-ul-Haq elected to field first on the slow track at the Shere Bangla National Stadium. His decision was taken after keeping in mind the dew factor which would set on later in the evening.

The Indian side didn’t begin the match well, losing opener Shikhar Dhawan, who got out with just 18 runs on the scoreboard. It was a good length delivery from Mohammad Hafeez which offered no spin and skidded to hit Dhawan on the back foot, which led to him being out LBW. Kohli too fell soon, trying to guide the ball in the third man region but ended up edging Umar Gul into the hands of wicket-keeper Umar Akmal.

Rohit Sharma, in the meanwhile, was playing aggressively with some beautiful cover drives and he was taking calculated risks, he went after the bowlers to reach 56 in 58 balls with the help of seven boundaries and two sixes but was finally caught at deep square leg. With the wicket of Ajinkya Rahane falling a few overs later, India were under tremendous pressure at 103/4 in 23.2 overs.

Ambati Rayudu and Dinesh Karthik put up a fighting 52-run stand for the fifth wicket before Ravindra Jadeja joined Rayudu to record a 59-run stand for the seventh wicket. Rayudu looked solid in the middle for his 58-run knock, hitting four boundaries and one six while Jadeja’s unbeaten 52-run knock, decorated with four fours and couple of sixes propelled India to 245/8 in the slotted 50 overs.

Saeed Ajmal’s impressive figure of 3/40 in 10 overs was responsible for the biggest damage. Mohammad Talha’s economical 2/22 in seven overs contributed in restricting India to a below average total.

Hafeez led the chase after a powerful opening partnership

Two new ball bowlers for India, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami looked mediocre against the two Pakistan openers, Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad. After 71-runs had been put on the scoreboard, India finally drew first blood when Ravichandran Ashwin with the carrom ball sneaked through the bat and pad off the intended cover drive from Sharjeel.

After five overs, eight short of his fifty, Shehzad pulled Amit Mishra straight into the hands of the midwicket fielder. This was followed by Misbah’s crazy run out and Umar Akmal’s terribly mistimed shot resulted in Pakistan standing at 113/4. It was Mohammad Hafeez who rescued his side, thanks to an 87-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Sohaib Maqsood, before getting dismissed on 75.

After Maqsood’s dismissal on the score of 203, India smelt a good chance to wrap up things quickly as Shahid Afridi stood between two different results.

Ashwin did nothing wrong but Afridi pulled off an Afridi

Pakistan required 17 runs in the final three overs, but Mohammed Shami just gave 4 runs to keep India’s hopes alive. Two singles later, Umar Gul looked to whack Bhuvi, only to get a top edge and Rahane caught a blinder at long-off. Moreover, on the last ball Talha too was caught looking to loft Bhuvneshwar over the top as a composed Jadeja caught him at long-off.

With the pacers’ quota getting over, Ashwin was handed the job of defending 10 runs in the last six balls. Ajmal, a champion off-spinner himself, misread the carrom ball and went for a violent sweep, only to lose his middle stump. Junaid Khan, at no. 11, somehow managed to get off the strike.

The hopes would have been high in India’s dug-out at that moment. After all, there were just four balls left to defend those nine runs or claim the last wicket. But then, they were up against a man who holds the ODI record for most number of sixes (351), which stands even today.

Ashwin, who was bowling round the wicket held the length back as Afridi moving away outside the leg-stump went for the shot at deep extra-cover despite watching a fielder at that spot. His brute strength helped in clearing the man and the boundary with ease.

There wasn’t much doubt over Afridi’s plan to begin with for the next delivery, and there was nothing wrong with what Ashwin did, but Afridi hit it with full power. Even though he couldn’t middle it, the ball gathered more height than distance to clear the long-on fence. All his teammates rushed onto the field as Afridi hugged Junaid to mark the memorable victory. With this defeat, India’s hopes in the Asia Cup 2014 were dashed.

“Whenever we play against India, it’s a great occasion and I’m very happy,” Afridi said at the end of the game. “Expectations were high; we all know how important this game was and I am glad I did it.”

The 16th edition of the Asia Cup 2023 will start on August 30. India will kick off their campaign on September 2 with a clash against natural rivals Pakistan at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy.


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