Hardik Pandya stood calm with an unbeaten 33 and hit the winning six in the final over of a tense chase against arch-rivals Pakistan last month, as India began their Asia Cup campaign on a high. The hard-hitting all-rounder from Baroda finished the game with a boundary, shortly after a casual nod of the head to Dinesh Karthik, who was at the non-striker’s end. Oozing with confidence and calmness, Pandya smoked Mohammad Nawaz over long-on fence for half a dozen and the head nod was instantly a hit on social media.
Pandya found himself in a similar situation almost a month after his batting heroics against Pakistan. And Sunday night was no different. The 28-year-old flamboyant cricketer sliced a wide yorker from Daniel Sams to drive India to a six-wicket win against Australia in the third and final game, which helped the home side claim the T20I series 2-1. Pandya also repeated his head nod before the winning four.
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Chasing 187, India needed 32 runs in 18 balls before Pandya and Virat Kohli smashed Pat Cummins for 11 runs in the 18th over. In the penultimate over, Pandya slammed a six off Josh Hazlewood, eventually leaving India with 11 to get off the last six balls bowled by Daniel Sams. He opened the face of the bat on second-last delivery to guide his team home in Hyderabad.
Pandya remained unbeaten on 25 after hitting the winning boundary, while Kohli fell in the last over after a 48-ball 63. Earlier, Suryakumar Yadav smashed 50 in 29 balls, decorated with five sixes and five fours in his match-defining innings.
Yadav steadied the Indian innings after India lost both Rohit Sharma (17) and KL Rahul (1) early in their chase after Australia scored 186-7. The visiting side rode on Cameron Green’s 21-ball 52 before Axar Patel applied the brakes with second C of the T20I series.
With the win, India also eclipsed Pakistan’s tally of 20 wins in 2020, which was a record for the most number of wins in a calendar year. India notched up their 21st win of the year in 29 T20Is as the Rohit Sharma-led side shrugged off their ‘Super 4’ exit from the recent Asia Cup.
Speaking after the match, Kohli lavished praise on Yadav and explained how he planned to capitalize on his experience. “I have to utilise my experience and had to take down Zampa. I looked at the dugout and both Rahul and Rohit asked me to continue batting,” said Kohli.
“He has the game to bat in any conditions, he got a hundred in England, then batted well in Asia Cup. Here he is striking the ball as well as I have seen him in the last six months. It’s just the array of shots and to play the shots at the right time is such a good skill to have, and he does that,” he added.