Mohsin grabs his chance to shine with the bat
Pakistan Under-19s allrounder Hasan Mohsin was named the Man of the Match against Afghanistan Under-19s in Sylhet for his swing-bowling display. Against Sri Lanka Under-19s on Wednesday, Mohsin exhibited his batting prowess too, something he didn't get a chance to do when Pakistan chased low totals in the first two league games.
The side batted first and lost two wickets within nine balls and, despite a comfortable start, suddenly found themselves 70 for 3 in the 20th over. Mohsin is not the most technically correct batsman in the side and neither is he the most elegant. But he is effective, assesses situations well and thinks on his feet. Had it not been for his run-a-ball 86, Pakistan would have probably have been bundled out for much less than 212.
"My approach was to safeguard my wicket as well as keep the runs flowing because our batsmen at the top got out really early," Mohsin said. "So when Umair Masood was playing with me, our discussion was to build a partnership and save our wicket as well."
Mohsin, who also opens the bowling, is primarily a batting allrounder. He has batted at No. 5 so far in the tournament and explains that he prefers the middle order because of a liking for spin.
"I like batting at No. 4 or 5 because I believe I play spinners better," he said. "At whichever position I bat, I always try to pull my team out of difficult situations and do well for them."
In the beginning, Mohsin took his time to get his eye in, despite a drop in the run rate. He made sure he stalled a collapse by seeing through spells of Sri Lanka's left-arm spinners and was on 5 off 19 balls before collecting his first boundary. Once he opened up, he started rotating the strike more easily and soon brought up his fifty off 65 deliveries. He used his hands and supple wrists to target the leg-side boundary initially and it seemed like he didn't prefer the off side much. Soon, however, he was using late cuts and punches, and was finding gaps cleverly with timing and placement.
In the last 10 overs, he unleashed a beautiful inside-out cover drive and surprised everyone in the 47th over with a de Villiers-like scoop from well outside off that got him four runs fine on the leg side. Did he see the fine-leg fielder coming in?
"Yes. The situation was such that I had to, because the field was such," he said. "The fast bowler was bowling and to hit straight wasn't easy. So I thought I'll sit down and [play that shot].
"It was difficult conditions for batting. I was just playing it all on merit."
Mohsin looked at ease against the ambidextrous bowler Kamindu Mendis and said he got over the initial surprise. He scored 12 runs off 12 balls against Mendis and the spinner was soon out of the attack.
"Yes, it was surprising. But for me, left-arm spinners I believe I can play them easily - whether he's bowling an arm ball or break." Would it have troubled Mohsin had Mendis switched to right-arm offspin against him? "No, offspin would've made it easier. Pakistan's wickets are such that we way play spinners well."
Mohsin started out as a batsman and legspinner when his father took him to an academy in Karachi in 2008. Several years later his coach Mohammad Masroor, also the Pakistan team coach right now, advised him to switch from legspin to swing bowling. He was singled out as one of the side's main allrounders by the management before the World Cup.
In his team's successful defence of a below-par score, Mohsin provided the spinners a perfect platform by removing the Sri Lankan openers in his first spell. Some accurate outswingers helped remove Avishka Fernando in his first over and a nagging line to left-handed Kaveen Bandara induced an outside edge in the sixth over to leave Sri Lanka at 21 for 2.
"I always try to bowl line and length, wickets come by themselves," he said. "My aim is always to stay on one type of swing at the start and keep bowling line and length. So when I contain the batsmen, I get a wicket."
Slightly shy, Mohsin opens up once you start talking about his game and tactics. Will he open himself to the world of T20 leagues, such as the PSL? "It is natural that everyone would want to play big cricket. If some team gives me an offer, surely I will play."
Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo