Pakistan are flying high so far at this year’s ICC T20 World Cup, recording their fourth win in as many matches. Babar Azam’s team completed an emphatic 45-run win over Namibia in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday to virtually seal the top spot in Group 2. After England, they are the only other team to remain unbeaten so far at this year’s World Cup.
While plenty of clouds hovered over Pakistan’s fortunes before the event began, they have certainly silenced their critics with their clinical performances so far.
Their win against Namibia should give them plenty of confidence ahead of the knockout stages, choosing to do it the hard way on Tuesday. Pakistan’s team seems to be flourishing under Babar Azam’s calm leadership. Playing well as a unit, Babar Azam’s men have ticked plenty of boxes in their admirable win over Namibia.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at the three positives Pakistan can draw from their commanding win over Namibia.
#3: Choosing to do it the hard way and getting it right batting first
The toss has played a significant role in the majority of matches across all venues so far at this year’s T20 World Cup. Winning the toss, bowling first and winning the match was the kind of pattern that was largely evident during the first half of the tournament. England broke that jinx against Sri Lanka on Monday in Sharjah, showing the world that it is still possible to win even after batting first.
While England didn't opt to bat themselves against the Lankans, Pakistan followed in their footsteps by recording an emphatic win after batting first. Keeping the knockout stages and contingency plans in mind, Babar Azam took the bold decision of opting to bat after winning the coin flip.
His batsmen didn’t disappoint him, responding to his challenge in an emphatic and professional way. Captain Azam and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan were watchful to start their innings, trying to be rational and calculative in their approach. Pakistan scored merely 29 runs in the powerplay, but most importantly did not encounter any casualties. Thereby trying to set a solid platform for a strong flourish at the end.
The teams batting first in the tournament so far have seemed to have lost too many wickets at the start. That has certainly been detrimental to their chances of posting a decent total on the board. Rizwan and Azam ensured that was not the case, weaving together a mammoth 113-run opening-wicket stand in just 14.3 overs.
After Azam departed, Rizwan came into his own and along with Mohammad Hafeez ended the innings with a bang. Pakistan scored 51 off the last 3 overs and fireworks at the end propelled their total to 189 at the end of the 20 overs.
Watchful start, consolidation in the middle overs and flourishing at the death, Pakistan have certainly set the template for the teams batting first to follow.
Pakistan have been chasing totals in the first of their three Super 12 fixtures. But on Tuesday against Namibia, they got exposure to the prospect of batting first under difficult conditions. Their successful effort batting first is one of the biggest positives that Pakistan can draw from their emphatic win over Namibia in Abu Dhabi.
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#2: Mohammad Hafeez getting back amongst the runs for Pakistan
The 41-year-old Hafeez is the senior-most member of this young Pakistan side. The veteran, who bats at No.4 struggled against New Zealand and Afghanistan, returning with just 11 and 10 runs respectively against his name.
However, the professor spent some valuable time in the middle against Namibia, scoring a quickfire 32 off just 16 deliveries. Hafeez batted like he was playing a game of chess, knowing exactly where the fielders were placed.
The right-handed batsman is a touch-and-feel player and maneuvered the ball beautifully. He pierced the gaps perfectly to help Pakistan achieve an amazing flourish at the end.
Pakistan's team will be delighted to see Hafeez gaining some form and being back amongst the runs ahead of their semi-final clash.
41-year-old Hafeez at No.4 is a vital cog in Pakistan’s batting line-up. His return to form on Tuesday is a refreshing development for the Pakistan camp as they prepare themselves for the business end of the tournament.
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#3: Hasan Ali’s return to form
Right-arm quick Hasan Ali forms an integral part of Pakistan’s pace triplet alongside Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf.
However, Ali was the Pakistan’s most expensive bowler in their fixtures against India and Afghanistan, leaking 44 and 38 runs respectively. Coming into the clash against Namibia, Hasan Ali was certainly under some pressure and needed a good outing to justify his place in the side.
On Tuesday in Abu Dhabi, Hasan Ali appeared determined and bowled with intent, returning with figures of 1/22 off his 4 overs. He got the wicket of Namibian opener Michael Van Lingen in his very first over with a ball that came slightly back to castle his timber. That set the tone for Ali, who showed variety and consistency in his bowling and will be relieved after a good outing against Namibia.
Hasan Ali’s return to form is another box ticked as far as Pakistan’s performance against Namibia is concerned.
Pakistan will play Scotland in their last Super 12 fixture in Sharjah on Sunday. Pakistan's team has been in ominous form so far at this year’s event. It remains to be seen if they can recreate the magic of 2009 to win their 2nd T20 World Cup come the end of the tournament.