Margin of victory was not the issue, winning the game was, says Pakistan captain
Raza Hasan, the Man of the Match, came in for lavish praise from his captain.
Pakistan desperately needed to win, and win big, to keep its hopes of making the semi-final of the ICC World Twenty20 2012 alive. Pushed to a corner, Pakistan bounced back in style to crush Australia by 32 runs in its final Super Eights Group 2 game and give itself an outstanding chance of making it to the last four.
Nasir Jamshed made a polished half-century to steer Pakistan to 149 for 6, and then the spinners, led by Raza Hasan, got on top to restrict Australia to 117 for 7.
“It was a great effort by the bowlers,” said Mohammad Hafeez, the Pakistan captain. “We really wanted the total we got today and then the spinners did a great job. We knew the pitch was going to help the spinners and it would be difficult to score runs against the spinners. That’s the reason I have been bringing the spinners into play all the time. I was very sure that whenever the ball is given to Umar Gul, he will deliver for us because he has been in this role in Twenty20 cricket for many years. We’ve got some of the best spinners in the world in Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, and the inclusion of Raza Hasan has given us a great deal of confidence.”
Pakistan had recently defeated Australia in both a One-Day International series and a Twenty20 International series, and Hafeez said that record buoyed his team. “We had beaten them in that series and that was a morale-booster for the whole team,” said Hafeez. “We had a long meeting yesterday and everyone realised that we have to work really hard to score runs, especially on this track. So we had to give a chance to our spinners to do the job. Today, the batsmen first did the job and then the bowlers were exceptionally good, especially Raza Hasan.”
Pakistan’s big win boosted its Net Run Rate, but Hafeez said the margin hadn’t played on the team’s mind until very late in the piece. “It was a great blessing to win with a big margin,” said Hafeez. “There was nothing in our mind except to win, that was our first plan. Mike Hussey played the anchor role very well to help Australia reach their first target (of 112, which secured Australia’s semi-final berth). We were not thinking of beating them by any margin. Our first priority was to win and then we tried out best to win with as big a margin as possible.
“We wanted to reach a score in the region of 150. We knew it would be difficult to score those runs on this pitch against our spinners,” said Hafeez. “We also knew that 70-80% of Australia’s strength is their openers and Mike Hussey. We wanted to get two of them early and their middle-order has not been tested in this tournament. We were very sure because in Dubai, we had exposed their middle-order. We knew if we got (Shane) Watson and (David) Warner, we had the attack that would put them under pressure.”
And two of Pakistan’s younger guns, Jamshed and Hasan, put their hands up. “The best thing is that every junior or senior is playing his role,” said Hafeez. “It’s not about being a junior or a senior, every individual has a role. I have always had belief in the talent of these two youngsters, and the selectors too backed them. Jamshed has shown that he is Pakistan’s best opener technically and Hasan has always performed his role in domestic cricket. We knew that whenever we brought Hasan into the team and gave him any role, with his talent and his maturity, he would fulfil it.”