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Shadab supreme as Pakistan reinvent batting tactics

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THE deadly combination of rain and Shadab Khan kept Pakistan’s slender hopes alive in this year’s World T20. Shadab’s excellent two wickets before the rain break made South Africa’s stiff challenge even stiffer, and rekindled memories of the 1992 World Cup when South Africa were robbed of a semi-final place by the rain rule. Lightning surely can’t strike twice in the same place thirty years apart?

Shadab was the star of the show, bringing his best PSL game to Sydney. In fairness, Shadab has looked positive in each innings, but here his 52 off 22 balls inspired Pakistan to a formidable total of 185. He was ably supported by Iftikhar Ahmed whose own fifty at a strike rate of 145 contributed to a partnership of 82 runs that rescued Pakistan’s innings after a flurry of wickets.

Necessity is the mother of invention and Pakistan reinvented their batting tactics to work around the ongoing failures of their star openers, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan. In Sydney, a ground that has traditionally better suited South Asian teams, Pakistan’s batsmen went on the front foot. They attacked, dug in when they needed to rebuild, and then attacked again. This must be the next evolution of Pakistan’s T20 cricket, a different method to the tired cliché of “taking the innings deep”.

It was Pakistan’s replacement for the injured Fakhar Zaman who set the tone. Muhammad Haris, with the innocence of youth, threw care to wind and launched a breathtaking instant assault on South Africa’s much vaunted pace att­ack. Belying his diminutive frame and a blow to his helmet, Haris used his quick feet and balletic balance to effortlessly clear the boundary on three occasions in his brief but influential knock.

This was the adrenaline rush, the sense of bravado, that Pakistan have been missing at the top of the order. It is T20 cricket as it is now played, with every ball a potential boundary, and no time for getting your eye in or assessing the conditions. The question was who would keep up the momentum, and on this occasion Pakistan’s middle order delivered.

The other positive for Pakistan was Shaheen Shah Afridi’s return to form. Pakistan’s leading paceman revived his habit of taking a wicket in his first over, and put South Africa on the back foot, before South Africa’s captain Temba Bavuma threatened a counter attack. Shaheen was the pick of Pakistan’s fast bowlers and was well supported by Naseem Shah and Mohammad Wasim although Haris Rauf had a rare bad day and struggled with a wet ball.

But as the rain grew heavier and Bavuma was in full flow, Babar turned to Shadab amid some concern that South Africa were ahead on run rate and that a spinner would find the conditions difficult. Shadab bounced up to the bowling crease and delivered a well directed leg break at Bavuma that Rizwan caught joyously behind the stumps.

Two balls later, a full ball that hurried on dismantled Aided Markam’s stumps, and Pakistan suddenly found themselves in absolute control of the game. Rain forced the players from the pitch and when they returned the odds were heavily loaded in Pakistan’s favour. Shadab had won the game with a masterful allround performance.

Pakistan were worthy winners in Sydney, and their approach to the game suggested a team finally hitting its stride despite the ongoing failures from their opening batsmen. Whether this is a flash in the pan will be judged when Pakistan meet Bangladesh, with both teams requiring a win and a miracle to qualify for the semi-finals. Pakistan will certainly go into their final group game with confidence, but the group still remains firmly in the control of India and South Africa.

At least the aggressive batting method Pakistan applied in Sydney hints at better days ahead, but the shame is that they have come so late to the party. Pakistan have much reflection to do on their preparation for this tournament and their performances in it, but for now they will cling on to a fragment of hope that a shock defeat for India or South Africa will open the door just wide enough for them to sneak into the semi-finals.



Mohammad Rizwan b Parnell 4 Babar Azam c Rabada b Ngidi 6 Mohammad Haris lbw b Nortje 28 Shan Masood c Bavuma b Nortje 2 Iftikhar Ahmed c Rossouw b Rabada 51 Mohammad Nawaz lbw b Shamsi 28 Shadab Khan c Stubbs b Nortje 52 Mohammad Wasim c Bavuma b Nortje 0 Naseem Shah not out 5 Haris Rauf run out 3 EXTRAS (LB-1, W-4, NB-1) 6 TOTAL (for nine wkts, 20 overs) 185 DID NOT BAT: Shaheen Afridi FALL OF WICKETS: 1-4 (Rizwan), 2-38 (M. Haris), 3-40 (Babar), 4-43 (Shan), 5-95 (Nawaz), 6-177 (Shadab), 7-177 (Wasim), 8-177 (Iftikhar), 9-185 (Haris) BOWLING: Parnell 4-0-31-1, Rabada 4-0-44-1, Ngidi 4-0-32-1 (2w), Nortje 4-0-41-4 (1nb), Shamsi 4-0-36-1 (2w)


Q. de Kock c M. Haris b Shaheen 0 T. Bavuma c Rizwan b Shadab 36 R. Rossouw c Naseem b Shaheen 7 A. Markram b Shadab 20 H. Klaasen c Wasim b Shaheen 15 T. Stubbs c Nawaz b Naseem 18 W. Parnell lbw b Wasim 3 K. Rabada run out 1 A. Nortje c M. Haris b Haris 1 L. Ngidi not out 4 T. Shamsi not out 1 EXTRAS (W-2) 2 TOTAL (for nine wkts, 14 overs) 108 FALL OF WICKETS: 1-1 (de Kock), 2-16 (Rossouw), 3-65 (Bavuma), 4-66 (Markram), 5-94 (Klaasen), 6-99 (Parnell), 7-101 (Stubbs), 8-103 (Rabada), 9-103 (Nortje) BOWLING: Shaheen 3-0-14-3, Naseem 3-0-19-1 (1w), Haris 3-0-44-1 (1w), Wasim 2-0-13-1, Shadab 2-0-16-2, Nawaz 1-0-2-0 RESULT: Pakistan won by 33 runs (DLS method).

Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2022

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