New Delhi: A virtual second string Indian XI made short work of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an inconsequential round robin match of the 2016 Asia Cup at Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur on Thursday.
Chasing a paltry total of 81 runs, India won the match by nine wickets with 59 balls remaining. With today's result, India remain unbeaten in the tournament and will play hosts Bangladesh in Sunday's final. It's the seventh fastest run-chase chase in terms of balls remaining in T20Is and the best for India.
Yesterday, Bangladesh shocked Pakistan by five wickets to book a berth in the final.
Having already secured a place in the final, India brought in Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Pawan Negi in place of Ravinchandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Ashish Nehra.
Negi, 23, thus finally made his India debut after he was sensationally picked in the national squad for the Asia Cup and ICC World Twenty20. He was also the costliest Indian player in the Indian Premier League auction, this year.
But the Indian camp stuck with the same batting line-up, despite injury concerns to Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself.
UAE skipper Amjad Javed won the toss and chose to bat in what was expected to be batting track. But the Indian bowlers made no fuss, taking wickets at will.
For the second time in the tournament, India restricted the opposition for less-than 100. It was also the second lowest score in a Twenty20 International match in which a team was not all-out, after West Indies' 79/7 against Zimbabwe in 2010.
MS Dhoni utilised six bowlers in Bhuvi, Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Bhajji and Yuvraj Singh, with all of them taking at least a wicket each.
But Bhuvi (2/8 in 4 overs) and Bhajji (1/11 in 4 overs) were specially cruel with the minnows, conceding under two runs an over. Both were playing for the first time in the tournament.
The seasoned duo was supported by Jasprit Bumrah (1/23 in 4 overs), Hardik Pandya (1/11 in 3 overs) and Negi (1/16) (1/10 in 2 overs).
For UAE, only two batsmen could script double figure scores -- opener Rohan Mustafa (11 off 22) and Shaiman Anwar (43 off 48). The Emirates openers took as many as 11 balls to score the first run, which is second-most in T20Is. Zimbabwe took 21 balls to get off the mark against West Indies in 2010.
The UAE innings took shape thanks to two 20-odd run partnerships involving Anwar. The middle-order batsman first partnered Rohan Mustafa for a 23-run third wicket stand. Anwar then teamed-up with Muhammad Usman (9 off 12) for a 26-run fourth wicket stand.
In response, Indian raced to 43 runs in quick time, with bulk of the runs coming off the blade of Rohit Sharma. But the right-handed batsman perished thanks to a flashy drive of the penultimate delivery of the sixth over, bowled by Qadeer Ahmed. Mohammad Naveed took a good catch at third man to complete the send off. Sharma made a quick-fire 39 off 28 balls, with seven fours and a six.
With that came the promotion of Yuvraj, who was promised more batting time by the skipper.
UAE skipper, who had troubled top batsmen in the previous three games, failed against the Indian openers and in his first two overs, he conceded 18 runs.
With Sharma gone, Shikhar Dhawan took the initiative and he hit the wicket-taker for two successive fours in the eighth over to leave India 20 runs away from the win.
The over started with Yuvi hitting a crunching boundary through the cover, his first of the match. And it certainly marked his 50th T20I match.
The next over produced 10 runs with Yuvi hitting a four and a six off Mohammad Shahzad.
After a quiet 10th over, in which Rohan Mustafa conceded only six runs, the southpaw pulled the first delivery of the 11th over for a four to complete the nine-wicket win. Dhawan (16 off 20) remained unbeaten to help Yuvraj, who made 25 off 14, end the proceedings.