Sports

Edgbaston turned green and Babar purple

By Sarfaraz Ahmed
Pakistan cricket captain

There is nothing beyond hope. Hope guides you to the most difficult of tasks.  Even when we lost to India in a crucial World Cup match, we did not lose hope. Our belief was in our potential. We were convinced when we will turn our potential into performance, we can beat any team in the event.

After a two -day off, there seems to be a revival of the side, which looks rejuvenated.  The most valuable and priceless thing for this side has been the support of its fans. If Lord’s was 80 percent green, Edgbaston was close to 100 percent.  It’s the much-needed support of the fans that continues to drive and motivate us.

As such, the support and appreciation from the stands and all around the globe were the additional factors that contributed to our last two wins.

When we arrived at Edgbaston, there were dark clouds and a little bit of drizzle, but we had no fears of a washout as the weather forecast was clear. The covers were on but we knew it will be a full 50-over-per innings match.

New Zealand won the toss and elected to bat, something I would have also done had I made the right call on the spin of a coin. Mohammad Amir got Martin Guptill early, but the key wicket of Kane Williamson was the key. He was in an in-form batsman, scoring heavily and turning the match on its head. With this form, an unplayable ball was required to dismiss him and I am glad it came from Shadab Khan.

However, Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme batted sensibly. They hung in there and showed application of making full use of the quota of overs. We could have done better and kept them within 200, but some good stroke selection and a little offline bowling helped them to collect 85 in the last 10 overs, meaning Zealand reached 237 for six.

It will be unfair to talk and praise Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was outstanding. He had struggled in the earlier matches, but hard work in the training sessions backed up by a good temperament helped him to regain his wicket-taking abilities. Once he starts taking wickets, we all know he can be and that’s precisely what he showed on Wednesday finishing with figures of 10-3-28-3. At just 19 years of age, I have no doubts this lad will contribute regularly and consistently in Pakistan’s future successes across all three formats.

Our overall fielding was good and we caught everything that came our way, which should bring the smiles back on Grant Bradburn’s face. After the last game when we dropped quite a few catches, he had reminded us to enjoy fielding and I am glad the message was received by the players.

We know the 238-run target won’t be easy to achieve. We lost two early wickets, but then Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez steadied the innings. After Hafeez’s departure, Haris Sohail played a highly mature inning to offer good support to Babar.

I don’t remember seeing better innings in the chase than the one Babar played against New Zealand.  I would dare say Babar is the best player of this generation. He is a class apart. He is technically very correct and it’s tough to get him out once he gets going. He looked in total command against a strong New Zealand bowling attack. One of the best innings about Babar’s innings was he valued his wicket and hardly played a shot, which could bring our hearts in our throats.

For the second successive time, Haris batted sensibly and solidly. He took the attack to the New Zealand bowlers. Let me remind that his clean stroke-play doesn’t mean it was a batsmen’s friendly wicket. Contrary to this, it was extremely difficult to bat on as shown by Mitchell Santner.

Now our focus is on the next match against Afghanistan and then we will think about Bangladesh. Afghanistan is a dangerous side with quality spinners, so we will not take them lightly and will have to go at our full strength.

There has been so much talk about similarities between the 1992 World Cup and this one. We wish these similarities only culminate on 14 July at Lord’s, but we have to keep our feet on the ground and keep faith in God Almighty.

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