“Steyn not dangerous” - Shahzad
Afghanistan opener says he isn't happy that South Africa spearhead didn't play; concedes team needs to learn to close matches
20 March 2016 22:25
Kagiso Rababa was the first to feel the force of his bat, with a mishit drive clearing the rope at third man. The next ball was carved over point for four. When Kyle Abbott came on and started with a length ball, Shahzad sent it soaring over deep midwicket. When Abbott dragged back his length a bit, he smashed it straight back down the ground for six more. A poor short ball was then dismissed with a pull over midwicket, and when Abbott finally attempted a slower one, Shahzad cut with power and precision for four.
Rabada’s next over saw a clever ramp over the keeper for four, and a pick-up shot over fine leg for six. By the time he stroked two through the covers, Shahzad had scored 42 entirely in boundaries. Morris got him with a blisteringly quick ball in the next over, but by then Afghanistan had marched to 52 in just four overs.
Shahzad arrived for the post-match press conference cracking jokes, and there were peals of laughter when he spoke of how disappointed he had been that Dale Steyn, benched for David Wiese, wasn’t playing. “It doesn’t matter what bowler is playing because the [Wankhede] wicket is very good for batting,” he said. “I would have loved to play Dale Steyn because Dale Steyn is not dangerous.
“Morris is very dangerous because he has height and swings the ball. Dale Steyn only pace. This wicket is good to face pacers on. The ball comes well on to the bat. I’m not happy that Steyn didn’t play.”
“I like his confidence,” said a relieved Faf du Plessis with a grin, when told what Shahzad had said about his premier pace bowler.
Nothing fazed Shahzad, not even Morris’s aggression. “Everyone is aggressive,” he said. “They had a good day with the ball, and that’s why he won. He didn’t affect my rhythm; he bowled very well, good line and lengths. I was just waiting for the cuts, and to hit full-length deliveries. I missed, he hit.”
From behind the stumps, he had observed the decisive phase of the match, the Rashid Khan over that went for 29. AB de Villiers was on 29 when it started. Moments earlier, when he was on 26, Samiullah Shenwari had failed to hold on to a difficult return catch.
“That was the difference between the two teams,” said Shahzad of the chance and the subsequent punishment. “He batted very well, and Morris bowled well. This is part of the game – missed catches, missed boundaries.
“The target was slightly too much, but the wicket was very good for batting. We have too many aggressive batsmen, and we threw away wickets.”
Afghanistan has had its moments in both its Super 10s matches, but Shahzad conceded that the team would need to be better to close out matches. “We need to improve our fielding, and make partnerships and stay at the wicket,” he said. “That is the difference between us and the old [established] teams.”
As for Shahzad, who says MS Dhoni is his favourite cricketer, his mantra will stay simple. “I wait for loose deliveries,” he said. “When I find a loose delivery, whether it’s the first ball of the match or the last, I don’t care.”
He reckoned that a county stint would be good for players’ development, because it’s ‘good quality cricket’, but his own methods are far more suited to the Indian Premier League [IPL] and its imitators. “We just play good cricket,” said Shahzad. “If anyone picks us when we’re free, we’ll go everywhere to play cricket. We love to play cricket, and we want to learn from everywhere.”
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