Cricket sure is a funny game. The Sri Lankans, who were the favourites to win this year's edition of the Asia Cup after their performances in Australia, are definitely out of the tournament having lost both the matches they have played so far.
They have one game left against the hosts, Bangladesh and they can do a favour either to the home team or India, by losing or winning the game respectively. If they lose to Bangladesh, then the hosts go through to the finals, since they will be level with India on points, but have beaten India in the head to head.
Perhaps, it was that loss that stunned India into action, for they played by far the best cricket they have played since the ODI wins over England in October last year and chased down a formidable total put up by Pakistan.
Pakistan have only themselves to blame for not getting 350 after the 200 plus opening stand given by their pair of Hafeez and Jamshed. It is here that skipper Misbah has to shoulder the blame. By holding himself back and sending the inexperienced Hammad Azam, he sent a signal to the Indians that he was not prepared to shoulder the responsibility.
Misbah is a big hitter himself and with the experience he has had of playing against India, it was important that he came in for the final overs slog. Pakistan missed out on about 20 runs, though the manner in which India achieved their target with 2.1 overs to spare does suggest that even those extra runs would not have mattered.
Misbah then made the mistake of taking off Hafeez after he had got the wicket of Gautam Gambhir in the first over of the Indian innings. He kept using the medium pace of Cheema and Wahab, which was exactly what the Indians wanted on a pitch that was a beauty for batting.
India went in to bat with the knowledge that they had got 320 and that too in 37 overs not too long ago, and once again it was Virat Kohli, who played a scintillating innings, to take India home. He had terrific support from Sachin Tendulkar, who played much more freely and then from Rohit Sharma, who was batting for the first time in the tournament.
Sharma had thrown his wicket away after getting starts in Australia, but here he kept his head and played shots along the ground. He, like Kohli has the priceless ability to find the gaps, so all he has to do is to curb the temptation of going for the big hit, unless the scoring rate demands it.
India will hope that the Lankans lift their game against Bangladesh, for they are looking a bit tired and listless. It has been a long tour for them having come directly from Australia, and it is showing on the field. Their bowling is so dependent on Lasith Malinga, that when he bowls badly they cannot control the tempo of the game at all. The batting is looking ok and they would be hoping to chase rather than bat, since batting first they look to score too quickly and end up losing wickets.
It is a big match not just for Lanka and Bangladesh, but for India too, for they don't want another Hobart to happen to them.Professional Management Group