A win is always a tonic for any team and it is especially so when it comes in the form of the victory Pakistan achieved against Australia in their last Super Eights match, a victory that saw them qualify for today’s first semifinal against hosts Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa International Stadium.
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez’s gleaming face during the pre-match press conference reflected how confident the 2009 winners are before the first knockout clash against a team who are very strong contenders to make it to the October 7 final.
But ‘The Professor’ was well aware of the fact that their performance in the tournament has lurched between sublime and atrocious although they started the event as hot favourites, whereas Sri Lanka has been consistent so far. Their performances so far however will cease to matter as the competition enters the knockout stages; the general opinion is that both have similar strengths and rely on similar weapons, so today there will be a clash of equals.
Hafeez admitted as much.
“Sri Lanka are a very good side and I believe it will be a good contest,” said Hafeez.
Pakistan’s path to the semifinals was not devoid of thorns, as they rallied from the depths of 78 for 7 to post a two-wicket win against South Africa before crashing to an embarrassing eight-wicket defeat at the hands of traditional foes India. But with elimination looming large, the mercurial subcontinental team regained rhythm to bring Australia down to earth with a 32-run victory that also led to the elimination of India.
“Sri Lanka have been playing consistently so far in the tournament but we have had ups and downs. We are now confident after the victory against Australia. I think Pakistan are a very good unit who can win the match. We want to play positive cricket tomorrow and what we want to do is enjoy the game,” said Hafeez.
“We are very much prepared for the match and you know this team has been playing impressive cricket in this format but that doesn’t mean we are not good in other formats. We are supporting each other in the team, which is our main strength,” he added.
The Pakistan captain didn’t appreciate talk about their strength being spin bowling which is a key component of winning T20 matches; instead he thought that they are strong as an overall unit.
“You know spin bowling is not our only strength, so you can’t talk about only spin bowling because we have some good pace bowlers like Umar Gul and others and we also have a very good batting line-up. (Saeed) Ajmal is a very good spinner but we also have match-winning bowlers like Shahid Afridi and newcomer Raza Hasan who justified his talent and inclusion in the team. As a captain, I am really comfortable in the knowledge that I have a number of match-winners in the team,” opined Hafeez, adding that Sri Lankan batsmen are quite good against spin bowling.
Pakistan are known to come up with surprises on big occasions, so the question was what kind of surprise they have in store?
“T20 itself is always a game of surprises. Our main target is to enjoy the game and play good cricket,” said Hafeez.
The Pakistan skipper also hoped that the crowd will appreciate good and exciting cricket today when they take the field against the home side.
-With The Daily Star input