New Zealand v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Napier February 1, 2011

'Afridi is doing a good job' - Misbah

Misbah-ul-Haq has come out in support of Pakistan's current ODI captain Shahid Afridi amid uncertainty as to who will lead the team during the 2011 World Cup. Pakistan have not yet named a captain for their World Cup squad, and there has been speculation that Misbah, who has led the Pakistan Test team in their last two series, is being considered for the role, but he said he was happy to play under Afridi.

"The team has gelled well. Whoever is the captain, everyone will play for the team and for the country," Misbah said. "I think Shahid Afridi is doing a good job. We have no problems and whoever is the captain, we will go out there and play our game.

"Everybody is in good form. That's a good thing for the team. Everybody's contributing and getting scores; even the bowlers are doing well, so these are good signs [for the World Cup]."

Misbah has been in supreme form in New Zealand. In three innings in the one-day series so far, Misbah has made 178 runs, including the match-winning 93 not out at McLean Park on Tuesday. In the Tests, he notched up 231 runs at an average of 115.50.

On Tuesday, Misbah came in to bat with Pakistan facing a collapse at 84 for 3, chasing New Zealand's 262. He rebuilt alongside Younis Khan with an 89-run partnership to lay the foundation for the Pakistan innings, before accelerating with the tail to haul in the rising asking rate and topple the hosts with an over to spare.

"It's really good for me, I'm really enjoying playing in New Zealand," Misbah said. "My performance is going well and I'm doing a good job for the team."

Misbah credited the faith the selectors and team have displayed in him. His run of form began in the two-match Test series against South Africa in the United Arab Emirates, in November, when he scored three half-centuries and helped Pakistan draw the series. "A lot of things are behind it [my form]. I've taken a lot of confidence from the team management and a lot of confidence from the selectors, the coach and the captain and that makes a big difference. Cricket is all about confidence. At the moment the confidence is high and that's why I'm scoring runs."

In his innings in Napier, Misbah was cautious to begin with, playing simple, risk-free cricket during the middle overs to ensure Pakistan had a solid foundation for the lower-order hitters to launch from, before taking it upon himself to raise the run-rate when Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi failed to make an impact. Misbah was on 64 off 78 deliveries when the batting Powerplay was taken in the 43rd over, but had raced to 93 off 91 by the time Pakistan reached their target.

Two consecutive boundaries through square leg in the 43rd over kept Pakistan in touch with the asking rate and Misbah's six and four off the first two balls of the 48th over swung the game decidedly in favour of the visitors. "My idea was that I should stay till the end since the other guys coming in were good hitters, so I was confident that we would get the total. In close situations like that, if you panic there are problems. But if you relax, you can get through."

The innings was Misbah's highest ODI score, eclipsing his 79 not out against West Indies in 2008. Sohail Tanvir walloped 14 runs in the 49th over to finish things off and leave Misbah seven runs short of a century, but Misbah claimed he wasn't disappointed at being denied a maiden one-day hundred.. "The win for the team is important. Personal goals aren't that important, so I'm happy."

Andrew Fernando writes for The Pigeon and blogs here

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