Pakistan Under-19 captain Hasan Khan has hailed Ali Zaryab as the "wall" of the team after they squeezed into the World Cup semi-final by beating South Africa by three wickets in Christchurch. Zaryab calmly stroked 74 not out to steer Pakistan home in chase of 190 and he had earlier made a nerveless 59 against Sri Lanka after a middle-order collapse in a must-win final league match.
"He's the wall for Pakistan Under-19 cricket team," said Hasan. "The way he batted today and in previous match as well, I hope he continues that form and does well in the next few matches."
Pakistan slipped to 111 for 5 before Zaryab took control with the lower order. Two more wickets after that did not alter Zaryab's approach. "I was only thinking about playing the 50 overs," Zaryab explained. "If I play 50 overs, I knew I could chase this on my own. My game is to start with singles and score heavily against bad balls, that was my game plan."
The timing of Zaryab's knock and his composure earned him praise from the opposition captain too. "Under the circumstances, it was a fantastic innings from him," Raynard van Tonder said. "He batted really well and was quite calm under pressure. He showed great maturity to finish the game for them, so well done to him."
Pakistan could potentially play India in the semi-final, if Prithvi Shaw's side overcomes Bangladesh. It's a prospect Hasan isn't fretting over. "As I said at the start of the World Cup, any team can do anything," he said. "We're looking forward to the match, we're not worried about which team we're facing, we'll stick to our basics and hopefully we'll do well."
South Africa's batting line-up hasn't delivered to potential, barring one outing against Kenya where they made 341. Against West Indies, they recovered from 112 for 5 to post 282, thanks largely to the lower order. Against Pakistan, they slipped to 135 for 6. Despite being shaky all tournament, van Tonder hoped for a rejuvenation
"I believed fully that they are going to score some runs but unfortunately they didn't," he said. "Our middle order batted quite well to get us into a decent position. I think we were about 20 runs short, if we could have got 20 runs somewhere, we could have been quite close of winning this. As a batting unit we haven't really stood up. I felt only in the Kenya game we batted well, but we got ourselves into trouble with the bat every game."
South Africa won't be able to replicate the batch of 2014 by winning the cup, but they still have the possibility of finishing fifth. Van Tonder hoped to benefit from the experience. "We'll take back a lot of learnings and experiences going into the future, especially if we get into the same situation again," he said. "For me, we haven't really played on TV, so it's about dealing with the pressure of other people looking at you from all over the world."