Pakistan finally beat India at a World Cup, thrashing their arch-rivals and the tournament favourites by 10 wickets on an extraordinary evening in the Gulf.
The closest the Pakistanis had come in 12 previous games — seven in the one-day World Cup, five in its Twenty20 equivalent — was a 20-over tie in South Africa in 2007. Even then, India won a bowlout.
Now they ended a painful hoodoo, thanks to an electric spell of left-arm fast bowling from Shaheen Shah Afridi, followed by a masterful partnership between captain Babar Azam and wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.
Pakistan celebrated after beating India at a World Cup at the 13th time of asking
By the time Babar scampered the winning runs with 13 balls to spare, an Indian-heavy crowd of 16,500 had thinned out, leaving only delirious pockets of green and white.
This was every bit as astonishing as the events here 24 hours earlier, when England knocked over West Indies for 55.
The Super 12 stage of this World Cup has got off to a memorable start.
Babar had spoken in advance about forgetting his country’s wretched record against their neighbours, which sounded more like amateur psychology than a professional gameplan.
Babar Azam finished on 68* as Pakistan chased down India’s total with 2.5 overs to spare
The Pakistan captain and Mohammad Rizwan put up a brilliant stand of 152 to win the game
But he and Rizwan batted as if the plea for amnesia had worked, underscoring their reputation as the world’s best opening partnership.
Set 152 after Virat Kohli’s half-century had helped India recover from six for two, Pakistan’s best two batsmen matched each other blow for blow.
Babar is ranked second in the world, Rizwan seventh. And if Pakistan’s batting looks top heavy, India’s bowling never got a chance to prove the theory.
Between them, the openers hit 12 fours and five sixes as India — not helped by the evening dew — were made to look pedestrian. As reality dawned, even Kohli assumed a subdued air.
Virat Kohli top scored for India with 57, before he was caught off the bowling of Afridi
The India captain (left) conceded his team had been outplayed by Pakistan on Sunday
‘Pakistan outplayed us today,’ he said. ‘They did not give us any chances. But we’re not a team who presses the panic button. It’s the start of the tournament, not the end.’
Babar, meanwhile, was sticking to his pre-match theory. ‘The pressure on us wasn’t that much,’ he said.
‘We weren’t thinking of the record against India at all. This is just the start — we have confidence to build on now.’
Pakistan’s evening had been set up by Afridi, who pinned Rohit Sharma leg-before for a golden duck, then bowled KL Rahul with a booming inducker in his next over.
The Pakistan quick removed KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli in a brilliant spell
Shaheen Shah Afridi was named man of the match after finishing with figures of 3-31
Despite a fourth-wicket stand of 53 between Kohli and Rishabh Pant, India never broke free, and Afridi returned to have Kohli caught behind for 57.
‘This is the first time we’ve beaten India and I feel proud,’ said Afridi. ‘I knew it would be good for us if I got early wickets, and that worked out.’
Pakistan had never won a T20 game by 10 wickets let alone against India.
As they posed for a team selfie on the outfield, it felt as if their greatest challenge would be to stop pinching themselves.
SRI LANKA BEAT BANGLADESH
Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh by five wickets in Sharjah, but their victory was marred by an ugly incident in the game’s sixth over, when Bangladesh opener Liton Das and Sri Lanka seamer Lahiru Kumara had to be separated after Kumara had him caught at mid-off.
Mohammad Naim, the other opener, was also involved in the fracas. Chasing 172 after half-centuries from Naim and Mushfiqur Rahim, Sri Lanka were in trouble at 79 for four in the 10th over, but Liton dropped two catches, and Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah failed to bowl out his two most dangerous weapons – spinner Shakib Al Hasan and left-arm quick Mustafizur Rahman.
Charith Asalanka took full advantage, thrashing five sixes in an unbeaten 80 off just 49 balls. And with Bhanuka Rajapaksa contributing 53 off 31, including three sixes of his own, victory came with seven deliveries to spare.
Bangladesh are England’s next opponents, in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.