ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
New Zealand v Pakistan, Group A, World Cup 2011, Pallekele
Hafeez confident of better openings
March 7, 2011
Three matches in and murmurs over Pakistan's opening combination are increasing. Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have put on 11, 28 and 16 against Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada but on two occasions the middle order has bailed the side out. There is no move from the team management to change things just yet - in fact there is a commendable rigidity to stick, as much as possible, to the same winning XI - but the need for a substantial stand is growing.
Hafeez has looked the more fluent of the two, particularly in his 32 against Sri Lanka, where a disastrous run-out ended a promising knock. The surfaces they have come across, while good for batting, have been more competitive than some seen in the World Cup and that Hafeez concluded has also played a part.
"When you assess the pitch as an opener, you have to plan out what it would be like, and both pitches at Hambantota and at the Premadasa had a lot of movement and swing," Hafeez said in Pallekele, a day before his side's game with New Zealand. "We need some time to build a good partnership but you get one good delivery or a decision goes against you, which are a part of the game, and you have to take it positively. Here there has been some lateral movement with the new ball and swing as well."
Hafeez's return to the ODI set-up in the last English summer has brought Pakistan a sense of stability at the top, though his most productive partnership has been with Kamran Akmal, now batting at one down. Hafeez averages nearly 33 in 19 ODIs since, with a hundred - in New Zealand - and three fifties. The figures don't look outstanding, but he has chipped in otherwise, with wickets (13) and a safe presence in the field.
"In the three series against England, South Africa and New Zealand I think I've been consistent," Hafeez said. "It's only that I haven't performed in three World Cup matches. In one match I got run out and in another I got a bad decision. To perform in cricket you need luck other than your own potential as well sometimes."
A good start also gives Pakistan greater flexibility in their batting order. Because the openers have not so far come off, Pakistan has stuck with bringing Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq together behind Kamran Akmal, in order to insure against a collapse. But there are indications within the camp that if the openers provide a substantial, pacy start, Abdul Razzaq or even Shahid Afridi could be pushed up the order, as high as one-down.
Having scored his first and only ODI hundred against tomorrow's opponents in the series in January, a change of results, Hafeez believes, is due. "As an opener I know we have not given good starts to the team, but there's no lack of confidence. We just need one good partnership to get back the confidence. We handled New Zealand's bowling very well [in New Zealand], I also scored a century against them so the confidence is very high."