Paradoxical Pakistan are an emerging threat
If it is a rare pleasure for Pakistan to thank their batsmen for a victory, twice in a row is a luxury. Bowlers win matches for Pakistan, batsmen sometimes save them. Hence several tremors of trepidation pulsed through their supporters' hearts when Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir began a chase of 176 for a win and another chase of 140 for qualification to the Super-Eights stage of this World T20. Pakistan's batsmen, in paradoxical fashion, atoned for the sins of their bowlers.
First, erratic Nazir confirmed the true nature of the pitch with a match winning knock in international cricket. Nasir Jamshed then confirmed the true nature of his talent with another notable international performance. Meanwhile, Hafeez rode an early scare to guide and occasionally smite his team to the target. On such wickets, and on such form, Pakistan's batsmen may finally come to a party.
Earlier Hafeez's bowlers had been equally surprising; a worried coach was bewildered by the short length that his pace attack persisted with. Shakib Al Hasan took candy from each baby, leading Bangladesh's brave bid for qualification. Umar Gul, once known for laser-guided accuracy, sprayed his missiles by random vectors. Yasir Arafat stole three wickets without threatening even to take one. Sohail Tanvir saved his spell with a peach in a rotten bowl of fruit. The acclaimed spin trio were tidy, nothing more. Pakistan were poor with the ball, albeit on a batsman's wicket, but worse in the field. A timid effort that invited questions about the endeavours of Julien Fountain and Mohammad Akram, specialist fielding coach and specialist bowling coach respectively.
In some ways, Pakistan are paying for the sins of selection. Mohammad Sami and Raza Hasan, for very different reasons, are unlikely to threaten the starting XI. Abdul Razzaq seems out of favour, when his all-round play would offer greater strength and depth than Arafat. All these machinations create high pressure for Gul during his overs, a responsibility he seems unwilling to accept. Indeed, rather than the spinners, for whom even a poor performance tends to be adequate, Gul's form could hold the key to Pakistan's progress in this tournament - a strength cannot become a weakness.
Expect Pakistan's bowling to improve now that they can settle into the second round. But the batting performances of Nazir and Jamshed are early warnings of Pakistan's emerging threat. Nazir requires a good wicket to unfurl his repertoire, while Jamshed is a much more substantial prospect. Both strikers backed up by Kamran Akmal's reinvigorated shot selection, and Hafeez's desire, add an explosive start to each Pakistan innings. Dav Whatmore will know that bigger challenges, and far stronger bowling attacks, lie in wait but his masterstrokes could turn out to be discovering the momentary pause button in Nazir's brain and offering Jamshed his moment at number three.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here