India vs Pakistan: Grass green on other side

SP

At least three deliveries rammed into his pads while two left him crouching awkwardly. On more than one occasion, Umar Akmal was beaten for pace, was too late on his shot and almost tipped over his feet. Close to three-quarter of the balls he faced hit either the bottom of the bat or closer to the handle, with only a handful of straight-drives connecting with the meaty middle.

If you weren't aware of his prodigious talent—thanks to the constant reminders about it from the Pakistani cricket faithful-you could be forgiven for mistaking the younger of the Akmal brothers for a batting-impaired tail-ender on Thursday. For, during his half-hour stint in the nets at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Motera on the eve of the second T20, the 22-year-old right-hander looked like anything but Pakistan's next big hope. The fact that his tormentors were a bunch of net bowlers and former Pakistan pacer and now bowling coach Mohammad Akram, bowling off two paces, only made his plight look graver.

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True, it's said that judging a batsman's form by looking at him during a nets session is perilous. But the problem for Pakistan is that Akmal looked equally out of depth against Bhuvneshwar Kumar during Pakistan's first T20 in Bangalore. He hasn't set the world on fire in previous outings either. And now into his fourth year of international cricket, he has remained a potential star, rather than taking that crucial final step up.

Akmal is not the only problem child for the visitors though. Openers Ahmed Shezhad and Nasir Jamshed too didn't look the part against Kumar's swing after Mohammad Hafeez had relinquished his opening slot. The pitch at the Chinnaswamy Stadium did have a grass covering, which in tandem with the dew made the new-ball doubly dangerous. But the trio made the young Indian pacer look more menacing than he was by responding to the swing in novice-like fashion. In the end, the burden of the meagre run-chase once again fell on the seasoned shoulders of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.

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