DUBAI - Pakistan lost the ACC Asia Cup 2022 opener against India, thanks to Hardik Pandya’s brilliant all-round performance that led the arch-rivals to a tense nail-biting 5-wicket victory in the opening game.

India started off brilliantly with the ball with Bhuvneshwar Kumar hitting the right areas early on. While Muhammad Rizwan overturned an LBW decision against him and survived a caught-behind review from India, the early movement gave India hope. Bhuvneshwar, however, resorted to the surprise short ball strategy to send back Babar Azam for 10 and gave India the early wicket. Soon Fakhar Zaman walked off, having felt a nick to a short one from Avesh Khan, to hand India the advantage in the Powerplay.

Rizwan found able support from Iftikhar Ahmed and the duo rebuilt for Pakistan in a promising partnership. Pandya brought India back into the game with a double strike as he first had Iftikhar caught behind with a sharp bouncer to break the partnership and then went on to dismiss Rizwan and Khushdil Shah in the space of three balls in the next over to leave Pakistan reeling at 97/5.

After 17 overs, Pakistan still had just 114 on board, and they lost Muhammad Nawaz off the first ball of the next over, but Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani gave them a fighting total with some lusty blows towards the end. The 33-run partnership in the last three overs helped Pakistan put up a competitive total of 147 on a tricky wicket in Dubai.

Naseem Shah, who was making his T20I debut, gave India an early jolt when he sent back KL Rahul for a golden duck. Virat Kohli walked in at No.3 and survived a dropped catch two balls later, but went on to cash in on his slice of luck as Rohit settled in. Pakistan struck again, this time with Nawaz, who showed pavilion to Rohit Sharma first and then to Kohli.

The twin blow had come at a bad time for India with the duo having settled down well on a tacky wicket. Pandya walked in with India losing Suryakumar to a superb delivery from Naseem. With 59 needed off 34 balls, Pandya turned the momentum around in brilliant fashion and turned it around India’s way with three fours in the penultimate over to leave his side with just 7 to win off the final over.

Nawaz pushed the game till the end, sending back Jadeja off the first ball of the final over, but Pandya sealed the game with a six off the fourth ball of the over to seal a win for India. The crucial win gave India vital points in the Asia Cup, with the tournament acting a prelude to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup two months later in Australia.

Scores in brief

INDIA 148-5 (Kohli 35, Jadeja 35, Hardik 33*, Nawaz 3-33, Naseem 2-27) beat PAKISTAN 147 all out (Rizwan 43, Iftikhar 28, Dahani 16*, Bhuvneshwar 4-26, Hardik 3-25) by 5 wickets.