Jasprit Bumrah
India’s Jasprit Bumrah (left) celebrates with captain Rohit Sharma after dismissing Pakistan skipper Babar Azam during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Group A cricket match at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York, on June 9, 2024. India won by six runs. Image Credit: AFP

Nobody believed Mohammad Amir when he said India’s 119 was a good total on the juicy pitch in New York. Low scores were a feature of the T20 Cricket World Cup games at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. Yet no one believed the Pakistan fast bowler.

The man who triggered the Indian collapse on Sunday was being polite: that was the general feeling. More so since India slipped from a position of strength at 80/3 in 10 overs.

It was easy to dismiss Amir’s assertion. A Pakistan win looked a distinct possibility when captain Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan set about the chase, raising visions of the ten-wicket victory of 2021 in Dubai. Azam’s departure slowed Pakistan, but Rizwan had the situation under control until the 14th over, although Pakistan were dawdling at 80/4.

Mohammad Amir
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir celebrates after taking an Indian wicket during the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Group A cricket match in New York on June 9, 2024. Amir returned 2-23 from his four overs, triggering an Indian batting collapse. Image Credit: ICC@X

It didn’t matter. Because it was a chase. There’s a target in front, and Pakistan were 40 runs away from a win. There were 36 balls to get it, which means a little over a run-a-ball. It shouldn’t be a problem, especially when six wickets are in hand.

Enter India’s magician for his second spell. Jasprit Bumrah’s first delivery swung in from the off stump, and Rizwan essayed a crossbat swipe. The middle stump rattled. A brainfade moment. A gamechanging moment. Everyone who watched the clash of the archrivals knew it. Amir was right. Pakistan fell short by six runs.

It’s easy to shower praise on Bumrah. He dismissed Azam when Pakistan were cruising and sent Rizwan back to breathe new life into India. Late in the game, he claimed Iftikhar Ahmed’s wicket to ensure no comebacks. Those three wickets decided the match. A true matchwinner. Little wonder, Bumrah walked away with the Player of the Match award.

India-Pakistan matches are a highlight of every tournament. The clash between neighbours brings enormous pressure. And pressure often decides the result. The team which handles pressure wins. The Indian batting buckled under overcast skies, which afforded swing, and the moisture on the pitch played havoc with the speed and bounce.

Indian skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were done in by deliveries that gripped and came slow off the pitch. Rishabh Pant and Axar Patel perilously rode out the tricky phase, with Pant surviving four chances in 14 deliveries. Yet India’s 50/2 in the powerplay was excellent, and 80/3 in 10 over was a good platform for at least 60 more runs.

But Indian batsmen couldn’t cash in; all it required was a common sense approach. Lack of application, the social media buzzed. It wasn’t far off the mark since the early prodigious swing and variable bounce had eased.

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Pressure rose, and more brainfades occurred: seven wickets crashed for 30 runs. India didn’t bat out the overs — a cardinal sin in T20 cricket.

Despite Amir’s warning, it was difficult to envisage an Indian win, even if you consider Pakistan’s middle-order fragility. That was until Bumrah cranked up his bowling machine. And the rest of the Indian bowlers, particularly Hardik Pandya, rose in support. They kept up the pressure.

India defended 120, the joint-lowest target defended successfully at the T20 World Cup (Sri Lanka also did it against New Zealand in 2014). They handled the pressure points well. That was the difference.

It was a victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.