'I was not there to prove a point' - Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez, the Lahore Lions captain, has praised his team's effort in winning the Faysal Bank T-20 Cup, Pakistan's domestic T20 championship. Having been handed the Lahore Lions captaincy by Mohammad Yousuf just prior to the tournament, Hafeez brushed aside the notion that he was under pressure to win the championship to protect his reputation as national Twenty20 captain.
"It was a great team effort and full credit to my side," Hafeez said after the final, in which Lahore Lions beat Faisalabad Wolves by 33 runs. "Everyone in the side had gelled and had one goal: to win the championship.
"I, being a captain, had to perform and had to contribute in the team success. There is nothing such as I was out there to prove any point."
Lahore Lions, the tournament's most dominating side, were set to pile up a bigger total than their 154, but lost their way, restricted by some tight, penetrating bowling from Asad Ali and Ehsan Adil. Hafeez gave credit to the Faisalabad bowlers for fighting back, and admitted that the absence of star offspinner Saeed Ajmal - who had played only three games in the tournament for Faisalabad before leaving for Australia's Big Bash League (BBL) - could have made a difference to the result.
"I must give credit to Misbah-ul-Haq and his team, for being so consistent throughout the event despite having minimal resources in the side," Hafeez said. "It was a final and a pressure game, and I would have liked at least 170 to 180 on the board to defend, but it was Asad Ali and Ehsan Adil who restricted us. Otherwise we were all set for one last big hit.
"Apart from this, I think absence of Saeed Ajmal was a big setback for them, but, after all, we managed to get a fighting total and successfully defend it."
Faisalabad didn't look in control of the chase, and lost wickets at regular intervals. Captain Misbah, who top scored with 37 while the rest failed to find their feet, said the chase was never on track. "They were outstanding right from the start, their bowlers kept us in check," Misbah said. "We were looking to have one good partnership, but we lost early wickets and never found momentum throughout. We lost our way and were never able to recover."
Faisalabad had been undefeated in the tournament before the final but with Ajmal at the BBL, they had to rely on some inexperienced campaigners. Misbah, though, said it was not the bowling attack that had failed: "His [Ajaml's] absence did make a difference, but we still managed to take down Lions' enormous batting line-up. Then we failed to capitalise while chasing, and that cost us the match."
The tournament was played over nine days and had 14 teams competing against each other ahead of the India tour; that gave each player at least six matches to exhibit his skills. Hafeez, as national captain, said he had keenly observed the players on show. "[The tournament] gave a vital opportunity to every player to show his ability and temperament. I have assessed the performances of some of the players, and will discuss them with the selection committee, regarding when and where they can be used in near future."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent