Watch Ayaz Memon (@cricketwallah) analyse the India vs UAE clash at the Asia Cup 2016.
There are moments in sports that leave you speechless. Something so breathtaking, so captivating unfolds in front of you that you are lost for words. Exempli gratia: When Usain Bolt ran those 100 metres in Beijing in 2008, when Sergio Aguero scored that last-minute goal in 2012 to snatch the Premier League title from their neighbours’ jaws, when Sachin Tendulkar scored the first double hundred in ODIs before Rohit Sharma made it a thing, a decade of Roger Federer.
And then there is the other kind of speechless — when what you see, fails so gloriously to catch your eye that you have no words, nothing to write home about. India vs UAE belongs to that kind.
The Asia Cup clash between India and UAE was one of those games that back the claim about inconsequential matches — that they are boring. Sometimes an inconsequential encounter belies what’s expected and serves up a cracker of a game. But Thursday wasn't one of those nights.
MS Dhoni probably knew how the match will go down when he lost the toss. And he did mention that he would have batted had he been luckier with the coin. He would have liked his batsmen to get a good go at it before the final against Bangladesh. He would've liked them to spend some more time on the crease. But as it turned out, India only had to bat for 10. 1 overs.
India went into the game with a few changes, in a view to provide some warm-up to the bench-warmers; a couple old faces and a new one. Harbhajan Singh and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were seen in the India colors for the first time in the ongoing Asia Cup, and Pawan Negi was handed his international debut. Negi is no stranger to limelight though. He became the costliest Indian player in IPL 9 auction when Delhi Daredevils splurged Rs 8.5 crores on the 23-year old bowling all-rounder.
T20 matches are expected to begin with a bang, but this one started out with a hiss; the first over by Kumar was a maiden, and showed signs of swing. In fact, four of the first nine overs bowled were maidens. Kumar enjoyed a good introductory spell and even picked up the wicket of Swapnil Patil in his second over, another maiden. India's find of the season Jasprit Bumrah claimed Mohammad Shahzad just the next over and it all started to look like a big nets session for the Indian bowlers out there. Simply put, you wouldn't miss much if you caught a quick nap in between.
But as all Indian cricket fans who care for a bit of nostalgia, you'd definitely wake up to watch Harbhajan Singh bowl. 'The Turbanator' came in to bowl the eighth over of the innings and started off with a maiden. He soon contributed to a dismissal in the 13th over when debutante Negi was brought into the attack, by catching Muhammad Usman on mid-off and handing Negi his first international wicket. Negi returned the favour in the following over in similar fashion and took a routine catch of Amjad Javed off Harbhajan. There was hardly any jubilation or celebration that one would expect from a veteran who has been on the bench for the entirety of a series, indicating the ennui associated with the game.
The entire UAE batting line-up offered nil-resistance, voluntarily placing their heads on the guillotine. Everyone, but Shaiman Anwar. His fighting 43 off 48 balls, which contained three of the total six fours and the solitary six of the entire UAE innings, came out as the only bright spark amid the glum batting display. His innings contributed to more than half of UAE's total of 81 off 20 overs. Indian bowlers shared the spoils with Harbhajan, Bumrah, Negi, Hardik Pandya, and Yuvraj Singh each getting a wicket. Bhuvnehwar Kumar was the pick of the lot in his return, with his haul of two wickets and just eight runs given in four overs.
India's chase, if one can call it that, was a mere formality. Rohit Sharma went through the motions before being caught out at 39 and Dhoni sent in a rejuvenated Yuvraj Singh, who, on a high from his innings against Sri Lanka, didn't waste any time out there. Anyway, how long can it take a batting side like India to chase 81 against a UAE bowling attack? Apparently, just 46 minutes. That too when Shikhar Dhawan decided that this was the match where he'll take it slow and stay not-out.
The sheer difference in quality between the two sides was the one thing that stood out in the match. UAE did not have a good time out there, but looking back they'll be glad about their Asia Cup campaign. They won all three of the qualifying games against Hong Kong, Oman and very encouragingly against Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan's heroics in the 2015 World Cup? And they had also pulled off a massive upset against Bangladesh in the last Asia Cup. UAE beat them to be here. They, however, did not manage to do something like what Afghanistan did, but they can take heart in their Asia Cup story. They fell just 14 runs short against Sri Lanka and almost gave Pakistan a scare. It's not exactly been an Asia Cup to remember for the Associate Member, but it won't be one they'll forget either.