WT20 : The Last Over Pandya ‘Won’t Forget’

WT20 : The Last Over Pandya ‘Won’t Forget’

Young all-rounder says he laughed at all the advice he received

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That Hardik Pandya bowled the last over was more by accident than design. With Bangladesh seemingly in control of the chase, MS Dhoni had to bowl out his strike bowlers to try and keep his side in the game. They did stay afloat, just about, but there were more than a few thousand nervous fans inside the Chinnaswamy Stadium when Pandya was thrown the ball.

He had gone for 20 in his first two overs, and been distinctly unlucky. In the first, Sabbir Rahman top-edged a hook for four, before a wild flail went off the outside edge past where first slip might have been. Shakib Al Hasan slashed the third ball of his second over to deep point, but R Ashwin, running in from a sweeper position, couldn’t hold on. Shakib celebrated the reprieve with the sweetest of leg-side sixes.

“Pressure was quite high, but I had to be calm,” said Pandya when asked what was going through his mind when he got the ball for the final over. “In those situations, if you are not calm, I don’t think you can [achieve a win].”

There was little calm about the first three balls. After Mahmudullah had taken a single, Mushfiqur Rahim smashed a wide ball through cover for four. The next was scooped, without the best connection, past Dhoni for four more. Mushfiqur pumped his fists, screamed with joy and appeared fairly certain that the game was won. The requirement was just two from three balls.

Following a long discussion with his captain, Pandya’s next ball was short and slow. Mushfiqur hit out again, but instead of clearing the rope, the ball ballooned to Shikhar Dhawan at deep midwicket. Mushfiqur was on his way, but with the batsmen having crossed, Mahmudullah, who seldom gets flustered, was on strike. Two from two.

When you need a wicket, the low full toss is generally not at the top of your options. But that was what Pandya bowled to Mahmudullah, with the field spread and no one in the circle. Mahmudullah, like Mushfiqur before him, also eyed the midwicket boundary. He too miscued his shot, but Ravindra Jadeja, running in from the rope, still had much ground to cover.

He did, taking as fine a catch as you’ll see under pressure. Cue another lengthy conference between Dhoni, Pandya and others. “I was laughing at a point, I got so much advice,” said Pandya. “One of the advice, I [followed], and that paid off.”

That advice was to bowl back of a length to Shuvagata Hom, who had done so much to derail the Indian innings by dismissing the in-form Virat Kohli. Hom missed, and Dhoni – as streetsmart a cricketer as any to have played the game – took no chance with a shy at the stumps. He had already taken a glove off in anticipation, and he sprinted to the stumps and dislodged the bails before Mustafizur Rahman could make his ground. India victorious by a run.

Afterwards, Pandya was far from satisfied with the performance. “We have defended [it], so obviously [146] was a defendable score,” he said. “But as a batting unit … I got out at a crucial point [after making 15 from seven balls]. I should have carried on. I have to start finishing games, and contribute as well.

“There is always scope for improvement in everything. Even if we score 200, some batsman will need to improve. So [we’ll take it] game by game, and our batsmen are waiting for the right games to score. I am confident that they will come out in all the big games.”

They don’t come much bigger than the next one, against Australia in Mohali on Sunday (March 27). “This game will help us [against Australia],” said Pandya. “It will give us a lot of confidence. I don’t think we have won it individually. We have won it as a team, so that will help us.”

For now, he can bask in the knowledge that he has joined the likes of Sachin Tendulkar (1993 Hero Cup semifinal) and Joginder Sharma (World Twenty20 2007 final) in the pantheon of Indian final-over bowlers. “This last over, I won’t forget,” he said. “It will stay for long.”

Those inside a packed stadium, and millions around the world that watched it on television, are unlikely to forget it in a hurry either.

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