This performance by Pakistan’s fast bowlers may easily take you back to the 90s Magic if you squint a little. A left-arm paceman who was excellent at moving the ball off the seam with finesse was on one end of the pitch. A right-arm bowler blasted fierce pace with an aggressive bowling action on the other end. The fastest of the group was the first-change bowler, and he bowled the most intense overs of the innings.
It has been a while since Pakistan has seen a seam attack this dynamic. They destroyed one of cricket’s most formidable top orders on the slick Pallekele field before tearing through the tail.
As was to be expected, Shaheen Shah Afridi was the one who made the early strides. He set up a trap for Rohit Sharma by throwing a delivery that swung away from him before hitting the stumps with a lethal inswinger that found the space between Sharma’s bat and pad. On the other side, Virat Kohli was defeated by Afridi after just two balls. The first ball was an unhit dot outside of the box. The second was one of Kohli’s most effective one-day strokes; he attempted to direct a length ball outside off to deep third man. However, it’s possible that Kohli underestimated how long this delivery would last on the pitch because it allowed for an early shot execution.
After Shreyas Iyer’s well-executed pull shot failed to clear midwicket, Haris Rauf took up the responsibility of picking off wickets, dismissing him, and afterwards Shubman Gill, who was bowled off the inside edge. Rauf made some of his best deliveries when the Indian batsmen couldn’t even make contact with them. Rauf frequently exceeded 145 kph during his periods, occasionally reaching 150. Similar to Afridi’s opening over, Rauf’s opening spell was enthralling. While it took Naseem Shah 45 overs to get his first wicket, he showed his prowess in destroying the lower order. (It should be noted that despite not getting a wicket, his new-ball spell was incredibly economical.)
The team’s other members also performed their duties. The fielding was pretty average, reminiscent of the Pakistan team from the 1990s. Afridi was denied his regular first-over wicket after a testy catch was made at square leg. Fielders occasionally allow balls to evade their grasp, leading to boundaries.
India, on the other hand, put up a display akin to theirs from the 1990s, thriving against spin but faltering against top-notch fast bowling.
One would need to observe how the Pakistani pacers operate on various pitches, such as the typically slower ones in Colombo, in order to accurately assess their performance. But with their performance, the Pakistani fast bowlers undoubtedly lived up to their name.