Pakistan captain admits that Shahid Afridi was in bad form, but continued to back him to come good sooner or later
Mohammad Hafeez top-scored with a 40-ball 42, but his dismissal with 49 needed from 36 balls turned the game in Sri Lanka’s favour. Umar Akmal aside, no one else in the middle or lower order could make an impression as Sri Lanka eased home by 16 runs. Afterwards, Hafeez said that he too would have preferred to bat first on the slow surface.
“On a pitch like that which was turning, it was difficult to score runs,” he said. “It was not difficult to reach that target but unfortunately we lost some wickets in the middle-order and that is the reason why we could not back into the game. I believe 140 should have been chased but unfortunately we could not do that.”
Some of the shot selection from the experienced batsmen was poor, and Shahid Afridi, who starred when Pakistan won the World Twenty20 in 2009, was singled out for much criticism. Hafeez, however, continued to back a man he still considers a match-winner. “He is in a very bad form at the moment,” admitted Hafeez. “He has really worked very hard in the whole tournament but unfortunately things did not work for him. I can understand as a captain and as a player, because sometimes things don’t work for you. He is a character, he is always a hard worker and the way he is trying to come out of it is a positive sign for us as a team. That is the reason why we have given him all these chances.”
Hafeez’s opening partnership of 31 with Imran Nazir turned out to be the highest of the innings and the steady fall of wickets allowed Sri Lanka a route back into the game. “On a pitch like that, where the ball was stopping a bit and turning, we knew that we had to make partnerships but unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, the middle-order collapsed and we could not get the partnerships going,” said Hafeez. “That is the reason why the pressure came on to the batsmen. I think the Sri Lankans played great cricket tonight, and they deserved to win the game.”
Sri Lanka dropped Akila Dananjaya on his birthday and drafted in Rangana Herath, who has excelled against Pakistan in the past. His dismissal of Hafeez, stumped going for the big hit, turned the tide. “I was very sure that [Lasith] Malinga will bowl the last two overs, so I wanted to take a little bit of a risk,” said Hafeez. “This is what T20 is all about. We had to take risks at certain points. Overall, as a leader, I am really happy with the way the whole team fought in the tournament.
“In T20, it happens sometimes that the pressure gets on to you as a batsman, and you have to think out of the box. Our strategy was correct. We relied on our spinners. And looking at the pitch, we brought Sohail Tanvir into the eleven. We knew that the new ball would be hard to negotiate. Overall, the bowling performance was good.”
Ultimately though, it was the batting that let Pakistan down. Apart from the Super Eights game against Australia, when a solid start allowed it to post 149, it never went past 140 at the business end of the tournament. “I think we [team management] have discussed this earlier,” said Hafeez. “We have had many talks with Dav Whatmore. We need to make a plan so that we can improve our chasing ability. We are not bad chasers, but sometimes under pressure, we need to work on partnerships. It’s a concern, and hopefully through hard work, we can get better at it.”