Australia v Pakistan, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Colombo October 2, 2012

Intense Pakistan lift under pressure

Both Pakistan and India had the chance to qualify for the semi-finals today; the difference was that Pakistan's attack relished the challenge of defending their total

Both Pakistan and India could have made the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 this evening. Both knew they needed to beat their respective opponents by considerable margins. India knew by exactly how many runs; Pakistan did not have any such prior information. Both sides batted first in their respective games and posted similar totals. MS Dhoni said stopping South Africa 31 runs short of India's 152 was asking too much of his attack. Mohammad Hafeez said once Pakistan had reached 149, he knew they had the attack to defend it. That was the difference between the two teams. Ability, and the resultant self-belief. Who said bowlers don't win you Twenty20 games? Pakistan's did today, overcoming an opponent whose one opener himself had proved sufficient to destroy sides throughout the tournament.

It was a staggering effort from Hafeez and his men. After Australia had swatted aside all four of their previous opponents, that Pakistan would make them struggle for their own semi-final qualification, at one stage, was almost unimaginable. But Pakistan have always delighted in the unimaginable, both good and bad. Don't go by their display against India a couple of nights ago. That was a game played under a completely different kind of pressure, the kind that has, in recent years, only stopped Pakistan sides from playing like Pakistan sides. The kind of pressure on offer today was right up their street. In a way, it forced them to play the way they love to in such must-win situations - start steadily with the bat, build up some momentum, and then attack with the ball.

Once they had got almost 150, one knew the Pakistan bowlers and fielders would be nearly unrecognisable from the match against India. What one wasn't prepared for was the sheer, raw, brutal intensity of it. It seemed to shatter the thick glass wall of the press box and rouse you.

Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul, both men no longer young, threw themselves onto the ball in the field. They were more than mere full-length dives. They were akin to big cats pouncing on prey. Legs pointing to the sky, hands coming down on the ball as their bodies crashed into the turf.

Hafeez, strangely subdued and hesitant against India, was itching to bowl the first delivery of the chase, shouting instructions even before the Australia innings had begun. Raza Hasan, all of 20, but with skills and maturity far more advanced, began with four dot balls to Shane Watson. The suffocation had started. Watson fell in Hasan's next over. Warner followed in Hafeez's next, the first time in the tournament both men had gone cheaply.

"We knew that 70-80% of Australia's strength at the moment is their openers and Mike Hussey," Hafeez said. "We wanted to get two of them early and their middle-order had not been tested in this tournament. We were very sure because in Dubai, our spinners had troubled their middle-order. We knew if we got Watson and Warner, we had the attack that would put them under pressure."

Hafeez, Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Afridi, Shoaib Malik. The spinners just kept coming at Australia, who were stunned by the juggernaut, and had no answer. When Pakistan batted, Nasir Jamshed was the answer to their need for stability at 29 for 2. How he moved from accumulation to attack, after a few initial jitters, how he changed the momentum of the innings with a full-blooded thump of a pull for six off Pat Cummins, how he combined calm and power again, was another reminder of Jamshed's maturity at 22. Hafeez praised both Jamshed and Hasan.

"I have always had belief as captain in the talent of these two youngsters, and the selectors too backed them," Hafeez said. "Jamshed has shown in ODIs that he is an excellent opener for Pakistan technically and Hasan has always performed his role in domestic cricket. We knew that whenever we brought Hasan into the team and gave him any role, with his talent and his maturity, he would fulfil it."

Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shantisagar on October 4, 2012, 0:37 GMT

    Very good article Abhishek The way you have written is just superb!!!

  • Andrew on October 4, 2012, 0:07 GMT

    Good luck to all 4 remaining teams.

  • Alley on October 3, 2012, 23:37 GMT

    @sportsforyouth.................gul no doubt is not in form. but did not u see last match against australia. he bowled 2 overs and it looked as he was in better rhythm than his previous performances ..........and dont count his performance against india because he always struggle against them because we all know he along with all team players lose nerves and we have mantle block against india. but he was always good against sl watch his previous performaces ........and seriously that guy yasir arafat did not even deserve his place in squad .he is always avg. and some times below than avg. an easy junk for batsman specially when they try to hit him they can easily do so because of the length he bowl...and also he does not have height advantage because of short height. so be can compare him with rana naveed and even rana naveed wins the battle because of his bowling variations.

  • shahid on October 3, 2012, 18:34 GMT

    Whata a fantastic article by Abishek Purohit. He has so much depth subtely and class to describe in beautiful prose what others can only feel., I am going to print your articles and keep, well done.

  • Jawwad on October 3, 2012, 17:28 GMT

    Abhishek - Thanks for the kind words about Pakistan but I don't think India was lagging behind or anything. It was just a tough group and sheer mockery of format that allowed only 2 out of 4 best teams to go through. I hope ICC reconsiders the formatting and allow points from group stage to carry forward. It makes it more interesting for teams to do good.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2012, 15:54 GMT

    @Your analysis was interesting enough to do justice to the team it was written for :D From our point of view, that's a tribute. Whatever would cricket do without Pakistan to turn it topsy turvy? On our part, the rivalry with India apart, on purely cricketing grounds, there is no team we enjoy beating more than Australia. It is most satisfying to beat a team who makes it as tough as Australia does!

  • Waseem on October 3, 2012, 15:41 GMT

    Drop Imran Nazir,open with Nasir Jamshed and put Asad Shafique in the middle order. Make gul bowl yorkers from 14th onwards(this is what he did in last two world cups very effectively) and inshallah Pakistan will win.

  • Ratan on October 3, 2012, 15:21 GMT

    This is a case of Australia losing the match rather than Pakistan winning it.

  • sukku on October 3, 2012, 14:11 GMT

    Pak spun a web around tentative Aussie middle order.. Good job..!! All the best for Semi finals..

  • Syed on October 3, 2012, 14:04 GMT

    MR. Purohit : agree with your review of yesterday's games. It was Hafeez who impacted both the games. It was HAFEEZ who put the "CAT AMONG PIGEONS ( in Aus & Ind camps)" by bamboozling the Aussies with 18 overs of spin/strangulation and engineered a ( BIG ) 32 runs wins. The win ( against Aust. ) triggered the PANIC BUTTON in India camp ! IMO, Hafeez single handedly orchestrated the exits of both S.A. & IND. Tremendous captaincy in pressure situation and use of available resources, making use of tit bits players ( except Ajmal ) or rather dead wood (players). Brilliant thinking captain !!!!!! No wonder they call him "The Professor" !

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