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Kohli vs Amir, Rohit vs Afridi: Five India vs Pakistan match-ups to watch

In Sport, World
June 09, 2024

India and Pakistan have made vastly different starts to their ICC T20 World Cup campaigns but both teams come face to face on a tricky New York pitch in their crucial clash at the Nassau County Stadium on Sunday.

When the tournament’s schedule was announced six months ago, June 9 was marked in calendars by cricket fans in both countries and around the world.

Now, it’s here.

Both teams boast some of the leading cricketers in the world and have produced memorable battles over the years. Once again, their skills will be to the fore as their fans watch in awe.

Al Jazeera looks at some of the key batter vs bowler battles that have the potential to define the contest:

Rohit Sharma vs Shaheen Shah Afridi

Innings: 6 (ODIs and T20Is)
Balls: 62
Dismissals: 3
Strike Rate: 83.9
Average: 17.3
Last face-off: 6 runs in 6 balls at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023

The India-Pakistan cricket rivalry has long been driven by the duel between Indian batters against Pakistani fast bowlers and Rohit versus Afridi is its latest version.

Afridi’s searing in-swinging deliveries with the new ball make facing him a daunting prospect. Rohit had his first taste of it in the T20 World Cup 2021, when he was trapped in front on the first-ever ball he faced from Afridi in the shortest format.

Rohit managed four runs off five balls from Afridi in their next meeting at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the T20 World Cup 2022.

Their rivalry has stretched into one-day internationals (ODI) and Afridi has dismissed Rohit in two of the last three matches between India and Pakistan.

Afridi’s pace and skills on a spicy New York pitch that has offered fast bowlers exaggerated bounce and seam movement vs Rohit’s ability to take on bowlers regardless of the surface, and on the back of a 37-ball 52, could make for a thrilling contest.

shaheen afridi rohit sharma
Pakistan’s Shaheen Shah Afridi celebrates after dismissing India’s captain Rohit Sharma during the Asia Cup 2023 match in Pallekele, Sri Lanka [Eranga Jayawardena/AP]

Virat Kohli vs Mohammad Amir

Innings: 6 (ODIs and T20Is)
Balls: 60
Dismissals: 2
Strike Rate: 93.3
Average: 28
Last face-off: 20 runs in 17 balls at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

The two might be fierce competitors on the field, but share immense respect off it. Kohli has termed Amir as “one of the toughest bowlers” he has ever faced and Amir has labelled Kohli his “favourite batter in recent times”.

Kohli vs Amir was one of the hottest and most sought-after encounters before Amir’s retirement from international cricket in 2022, but his return has reignited this battle.

Elite athletes are known to save their best for the biggest occasions and Kohli encapsulates it perfectly as the former Indian captain has scored 308 runs against Pakistan in five T20 World Cup matches. He has singlehandedly taken India home in three of them. His scores in those five games read 78 not out, 36 not out, 55 not out, 57, and 82 not out.

Meanwhile, Amir bowled a sizzling opening spell in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017, when won Pakistan their last ICC title. He dismissed Kohli almost twice in two balls – dropped in the slips and then caught at backward point.

In their next – and last – meeting at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, Amir dismissed him again, but only after Kohli had scored a sparkling 77.

In T20Is, Amir has allowed Kohli only 16 runs from 19 balls across two matches in 2016, but has fallen short of sending him back to the pavilion.

Kohli is yet to hit Amir for a six in international cricket.

mohammad amir virat kohli
Mohammad Amir and Virat Kohli share a light moment during India and Pakistan’s match at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 [Aijaz Rahi/AP]

Babar Azam vs Kuldeep Yadav

Innings: 4 (ODIs)
Balls: 52
Dismissals: 2
Strike Rate: 53.8
Average: 14.0
Last face-off: 10 runs in 18 balls at the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023

Batting on 48 and sharing a 100-plus run partnership with Fakhar Zaman, Babar must have felt he was on his way to a memorable innings against India when both sides met in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Manchester. Instead, he was bowled out by Kuldeep. Until then, he had only scored 11 runs off the 17 balls he faced from Kuldeep and had been unable to hit him for a boundary.

It was the second time that Babar was bowled by Kuldeep, the first instance being in the 2018 Asia Cup.

Kuldeep is the only Indian bowler to dismiss Babar twice, which gives him the upper hand in this match-up. Their head-to-head in ODIs reads 28 runs off 52 balls with one boundary and 28 dots.

The two have never played each other in a T20I, but Kuldeep could finally get a chance to carry his domination over Babar onto the shorter format.

kuldeep yadav babar azam
Kuldeep Yadav has dismissed Babar Azam twice in their last two meetings in the ICC Cricket World Cup [File: Aijaz Rahi/AP]

Rishabh Pant vs Shadab Khan

Innings: 2 (ODIs)
Balls: 15
Dismissals: 2
Strike Rate: 113.3
Average: 8.5
Last face-off: 5 runs in 3 balls at 2022 T20 Asia Cup

Pant’s swagger with the bat and audacious shots have scripted some fascinating wins for India, but the wicketkeeper-batter is yet to demonstrate his best against Pakistan.

Pant played against Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup 2021 and the Asia Cup 2022 – scoring 39 runs off 30 balls and 14 off 12 – and has fallen to Shadab’s leg-spin on both occasions. Of the 15 balls Shadab has bowled to the left-hander, seven have been dots, while the other eight have resulted in 17 runs.

Pant plays a floater’s role in the batting order and gives his team the option to have a left-and-right-handed batting combination at the crease. With leg-spinners’ proven success against right-handed batters and Pant’s historic struggle against Shadab, this match-up could go in Pakistan’s favour.

rishabh pant shadab khan
Pakistan’s Shadab Khan, second right, and teammates celebrate the dismissal of India’s Rishabh Pant during the T20 cricket match of Asia Cup between India and Pakistan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 4, 2022 [Anjum Naveed/AP Photo]

Mohammad Rizwan vs Arshdeep Singh

Innings: 3 (T20Is)
Balls: 23
Dismissals: 1
Strike Rate: 100
Average: 23
Last face-off: 4 runs in 5 balls at 2022 T20 World Cup

Rizwan’s 197 runs in four T20 innings against India are the most for a Pakistan batter. It’s clear that the wicketkeeper-batter fancies these heated battles against the 2007 T20 world champions.

On average, Rizwan has played 40 balls per match against India. and has been dismissed early only once, courtesy of a scorching opening burst from Singh at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the ICC T20 World Cup 2022.

On a seamer-friendly New York pitch, conditions demand openers to negotiate the pitch for as long as possible, while keeping the scoreboard ticking. Rizwan has proven his ability to put in demanding shifts for Pakistan.

However, he fell to a fast bowler in the match against USA and Singh has already taken two wickets in an over on the same New York surface. What more could a cricket fan ask for.

mohammad rizwan arshdeep singh
Arshdeep Singh celebrates after dismissing Mohammad Rizwan during the ICC T20 World Cup 2022 [Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/AP]

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