'It is hard to imagine life without them'

Mudassar Nazar

November 3, 2001

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Nirala Sweets
At last! We are in Sharjah for some international cricket. We flew over on 23rd October and carry high hopes of winning the trophy. After three days of gruelling workouts, the boys looked a bit tired so I gave them a day off before our first game against Sri Lanka that started on the 27th.

Over the past six months Sri Lanka have been pretty busy with their international commitments and they came into this game having won easily against a new look Zimbabwean outfit. Their performance against Zimbabwe was extremely clinical and they carried the day without any blemish.

Mudassar Nazar
Mudassar Nazar
Photo © CricInfo
Pakistan, on the other hand, had been inactive for the last six months and this showed, in the first few overs of our match against Sri Lanka our batsmen looked out of sorts and decidedly rusty. Fernando bowled with purpose and was a bit generous with short-pitched deliveries. Sri Lanka had also brought in Nissanka, a tall right arm fast bowler who extracted some extra bounce off this rather benign pitch. One must give credit to the Sri Lankan think tank for bringing in Nissanka in place of Buddika. In spite of taking five wickets on debut against Zimbabwe in the previous game, he was relegated to the bench. For a change, Sri Lanka supported 'horses for courses' method in the game.

Shahid Afridi
Shahid Afridi
Photo © AFP
Buddika is not too tall, so he would invariably bowl a fuller length to a batsman whereas Nissanka being a tall figure will always generate enough bounce and pace to keep batsmen pinned on the back foot. Since most of our batsmen are more comfortable on the front foot, I thought it was a brilliant and effective selection and also a poignant factor in their victory. Once subjected to a length that hindered our batsmens technique, we threw in the towel relatively easily rather than being flexible by taking it on the chin and combat this onslaught in a different guise.

Yousuf Youhana was good on the day but he too perished when we had started to turn the corner. Razzaq made the same mistake and our batting meekly succumbed to the eager Sri Lankan bowlers.

We then saw some very intelligent and aggressive bowlers from the evergreen Wasim Akram. Given a modest total to defend, Wasim literally charged in and bowled with the same fire and zest associated with his younger days. He was unlucky yet awesome. There were gasps of astonishment from the Sri Lankan camp when he rushed in for the kill. Sadly, he did not take wickets yet he made sure everybody who was following this tournament knew Wasim Akram was alive and kicking and meant business as usual. When he ran in to bowl in full swing, he reminded me so much of the youthful Wasim who walked into the National team in the 1984-85 season. I believe if we stick by him and providing he stays fit, he will be, as always, an asset for the team during the next World Cup in South Africa.

Grant Flower
Grant Flower
Photo © CricInfo
We could have given Sri Lanka a much tougher fight if we had held onto our catches but alas, we faltered once again and were easily humbled despite the best efforts of our bowlers.

All of us cannot stomach a heavy defeat so it played on our minds for a few hours. Next day we were determined to put things right against Zimbabwe and played most of our innings according to a well thought out plan. Afridi was awesome yet Saeed remained somewhat sedate for a while. In the end, this was the partnership that paved the way for our final triumph.

In the 2nd match we made four changes to accommodate some players who had not played in the tournament as yet. While winning the tournament is our goal, it is also important that we should have enough players in our pool to groom them for the World Cup in South Africa.

We set off badly by losing Naved Latif but were immediately put on the steady path by 'Mr. Dependable' Yousuf Youhana. I have great admiration for this young man and feel one day, he will be considered as one of the great players produced by Pakistan. Afridi once again gave us a blistering start but threw away his wicket when he was totally dominant. He must give up this bad habit of selling himself short. We were well on course for a 300 run total. But then we are, of course talking about the Pakistan team!

As we do too often, we let the initiative slip away by some silly and careless batting. A steady thirty, by anyone in the middle order would have given us a comfortable cushion of 300 runs.

Andy Flower
Andy Flower
Photo © CricInfo
I have played a lot of matches with the Flower brothers in England when they first arrived on the scene. So I am fully aware of what damage they can cause, especially when they are on song and batting in unison. After the initial burst from Wasim and Waqar, the Flower brothers came together and belted our bowlers all over the park. Grant played the finest innings of the tournament so far. It was extremely lucky for us when he was so tragically run out.

Towards the middle of their innings it did look as though they would finish the match off with five overs to spare. Our last chance was Wasim Akram and subsequently, Wasim's second spell was incisive. By removing two batsmen in three balls, he virtually finished the game off and was unlucky not to be declared Man of the Match. The other 'W' did his bit too.

Together, they are bowling well and let us hope both of them deliver in the final. It is hard to imagine life without them.

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