India paid the price for costly blunders at crucial junctures to suffer a nerve-wracking one-wicket defeat at the hands of arch rivals Pakistan, who rode on Shahid Afridi's brilliant cameo to virtually assure themselves a berth in the final of the Asia Cup here on Sunday.
In a tense encounter where fortunes fluctuating from one team to other till very end saw Afridi the turn the game decisively in Pakistan's favour by hitting successive sixes in Ravichandran Ashwin's last over to overhaul India's modest total of 245. (Points Table)
Afridi, who has been very inconsistent with the bat hit the first six over deep extra cover and the next over long on as he scored 34 not out in only 18 balls with two fours and three sixes. (Highlights)
Dinesh Karthik's woeful work behind the stumps again cost India dearly as he missed the easiest of stumpings when Ashwin fired one down leg side with Sohaib Maqsood (38), then batting on 21 coming out of charge. Karthik failed to gather the ball and missed the stumping with Pakistan on 167 for four. (Pics)
Mohammad Hafeez (75) and Maqsood added 87 runs for the fifth wicket and after IPL's new million dollar man Karthik fluffed his lines, they added another 37 runs which proved to be important in the context of the game. (Asia Cup a learning curve for me: Kohli)
From 200 for four, Pakistan slumped to 203 for six but then winners had couple of profitable couple of overs ---45th and 46th when Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar went for 13 runs each.
Hafeez for his all-round show (two for 34 and 75) rightly got the man of the match award. Hafeez's innings had three fours and two nicely hit sixes including a pulled one off Mohammed Shami's bowling. (Afridi admits feeling pressure vs India)
With this defeat, India's chances of making it to the finals are all but dashed while a Pakistan versus Sri Lanka summit clash looks imminent. For India, leg-spinner Amit Mishra (2/28 in 10 overs) bowled a brilliant spell getting into the playing XI after a long time while Ashwin was also pretty good even though it all got spoiled in the end due to those two sixes hit by Afridi.
It can now be safely concluded that Karthik has blown away a golden opportunity he had got in Dhoni's absence with two absolutely shoddy performances with the big gloves. In the last game, he missed Kumar Sangakkara's stumping chance and it cost India the match.
Maqsood's missed stumping helped Pakistan score extra 30 runs and who knows a wicket at the stage would have helped India.
Ravindra Jadeja (52) hit a timely unbeaten half-century as India recovered from a mid-innings collapse to post a modest 245 for eight in 50 overs.
Opener Rohit Sharma (56), who finally found his touch after a lean patch, and Ambati Rayudu (58) also did their bit but none of the batsman could make it big. However, India had at least something on board to fight for.
Rayudu scored 58 from 62 balls, while Jadeja was unbeaten on 52 from 42 balls (4x4, 2x6)
Experienced spinner Saeed Ajmal (3/40) bowled nicely in the death overs to remove three batsmen while debutant pacer Mohammad Talha (2/22) and off-spinner Mohammed Hafeez (2/38) took two wickets apiece.
Jadeja made full use of his reprieve on 12 when Hafeez dropped a sitter to post his ninth century.
It was Hafeez, who trapped Dhawan to give Pakistan their first breakthrough but India had the match in control with Sharma and Kohli in the middle. Sharma's approach was different from what he looked after a poor outing in South Africa and New Zealand.
He pulled Gul over square leg to break free and he showed no mercy against pacer Junaid Khan, punching the left arm pacer for consecutive six and four.
Victim of Sharma's assault, Khan conceded 25 runs from his three overs before being taken away.
The duo mostly scored in boundaries and added a quick 38 runs from 36 balls before Gul gave Pakistan the biggest breakthrough in Kohli.
It turned out to be a soft dismissal as the in-form Indian skipper was done in by an away going delivery when he edged it to the wicketkeeper, looking to work it away towards the third man.
Sharma cruised to his 22nd half-century in just 44 balls with seven fours and two sixes but he could not make it big after getting out on a rash shot.
At a time when India needed to play sensibly, Kohli, India's top batsmen did now show any patience, and Sharma was no different.
When the situation demanded him to carry his innings forward, Sharma offered a loose pull shot top-edging a short pitched ball to hand debutant Talha his first ODI wicket.
Hafeez took a running catch to dismiss Sharma and almost collided with Pakistan opener Sharjeel Khan who had to go out of the ground after hurting his knee.
Talha was impressive with his pace and bowled to a steady line as he dried up the boundaries.
Looking to improvise and work the ball over midwicket, Rahane found Hafeez who took a sharp rising catch to give Talha a second wicket.
Talha had an impressive first spell of 7-1-22-2 that plummeted India's run-rate especially when Dhoni was not there to step up down the order.
With the spin duo of Hafeez and Ajmal, Pakistan gave away only 21 runs in the batting powerplay that also yielded the wicket of Karthik.