Pallekele (Sri Lanka): Ishan Kishan and Hardik Pandya produced a wonderful rescue act while Shaheen Shah Afridi bowled a fiery spell but rain forced India and Pakistan to split points in an Asia Cup match that had all the ingredients of a thrilling finish here on Saturday.
Before the heavens opened up, India posted 266 all out in 48.5 overs.
Kishan (82 off 81 balls) and Pandya (87 off 90 balls) milked 138 runs for the fifth wicket stand off 141 balls to lift their side from 66 for 4 in 14.1 overs.
The no result meant that Pakistan ended their Group A proceedings with 3 points, and it also assured them of a place in the Super Four of the tournament.
India, who logged a point from their opening fixture, are expected to beat Nepal on Monday and progress to the Super Four.
However, the match offered some bright points to both the teams before the soggy end.
From an Indian perspective, the performance of Kishan and Pandya will be treated as a happy portend.
They joined forces after Pakistan pacers Afridi, who accounted for Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli early, and Haris Rauf combined to rock India’s top-order.
In a sense, it was a rather unfamiliar job for both Pandya and Kishan – batsmen who generally love to give a wallop to the bowlers.
But the conditions in Pallekele, which always had a lick of drizzle, and a high-octane bowling attack meant that the Indian pair would have to curb their shot-making instincts.
They had to be precise in the selection of each shot, and needed to be extra patient.
Afridi (4 for 35) tailed the ball in, Naseem Shah tested their awareness outside the off-stump and Rauf (3 for 58) pounded in those heavy balls, but the Indian duo soaked in all those tough moments.
The boundaries and big shots were not easy to come by but Pandya and Kishan pushed the board ahead with singles and their 50-run partnership came in just 52 balls.
Pandya was happy to play the second fiddle Kishan during their fifth wicket alliance.
This was the first time the left-hander was batting below the No. 4 slot in his career, and he didn’t show any signs of nerves.
That Pakistan captain opted to give a longer spell to his spinners – Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Agha Salman – also played its part in Kishan getting settled in the middle.
Kishan brought his 50 in a mere 54 balls. There were times when Pakistan pacers, particularly Rauf, tested him with short-pitched balls, trying to exploit his Achilles Heel.
But on this day, the Jharkhand man effectively negated the bumpers, coming nicely behind the line and using his wrist to give direction to the ball or keep it low.
Kishan could have easily converted the innings into his second three-figure score in ODIs. But his attempt to play a big pull off Rauf ended in the hands of Babar inside the circle.
However, his innings might have eased some worries in the Indian camp about a wobbly middle-order in the absence of KL Rahul.
Once Kishan departed, Pandya took charge of the Indian innings and slammed spinner Nawaz for a massive six over mid-wicket.
The innings of Pandya could be viewed as another brick in the new profile of an innings-builder that the all-rounder has been trying to compile for himself. This surefootedness of Pandya will certainly be welcomed by the team think-tank.
However, Afridi returned to snap his stay while Pandya was motoring towards his maiden ODI hundred.
The left-arm pacer rolled his fingers to deliver a slower ball and Pandya just prodded it into the hands of Salman at extra cover.
From thereon, a few beefy blows by Jasprit Bumrah carried India past the 250-run mark.
However, just after the end of the Indian innings, another spell of steady downpour started and it never allowed the match to resume.