'Consistency is the key'- Shehzad
Pakistan batsman Ahmed Shehzad said he was pleased with his consistency after helping Pakistan win the T20 series against Zimbabwe with a record knock. Shehzad, who is making his third comeback to the national side in four years, hit two successive half-centuries, including the highest ever international Twenty20 score by a Pakistan batsman, to lead the team to their second win in as many days at the Harare Sports Club.
"It is important to be consistent and I tried very hard to remain so," Shehzad said. "In the first few overs, I did not get much strike and could have panicked, but then as my confidence built up, I was able to get on strike more often and hit good shots. Zimbabwe played some good cricket and now we will be looking forward to playing them in the ODIs."
Shehzad, who hails from a street near the Anarkali Bazaar in Lahore, was among a crop of the most promising young cricketers in the Pakistan set-up in recent years, and played at the Under-19 level with the likes of Umar Akmal, Mohammad Amir, Umar Amin, Junaid Khan and Raza Hasan. In last 12 List A matches played between 2007 and 2009, before his debut for Pakistan, Ahmed racked up five fifties and his form caught the attention of the then chief selector, Abdul Qadir. His career, however, has been under scrutiny following discipline issues.
On Saturday, Shehzad smashed an unbeaten 98, after scoring 70 in the first T20. He hit six sixes during his innings, but missed out on a historic century, scrambling for a single off the last ball of the innings. He had a slow start and hit just one six in his first 20 deliveries, off Prosper Utseya in the first over. However, he began to accelerate after the wicket of Nasir Jamshed in the sixth over, reaching his fifty in just 42 balls and scoring the next 48 off just 22 deliveries, to finish with a strike-rate of 153.12. The performances helped him move up 41 places on the ICC rankings for T20 batsmen and he is now ranked 18th.
Even though the runs came against a 12th-ranked Zimbabwe team that has been overshadowed by off-field issues in recent weeks, Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's T20 captain, said that the batsman had fulfilled an important role for the side.
"I am pleased to see Ahmed batting nicely throughout the series," Hafeez said "We really need someone to hold the innings from the top and he is the one who gave us the result we wanted to achieve."
When Pakistan lost Jamshed for 23, they were 36 for 1 in 5.4 overs at a run-rate below seven. But Shehzad and Hafeez powered on, and shared an unbeaten 143-run partnership for the second wicket to give Zimbabwe a target of 180 runs, much to Hafeez's delight.
"We knew they (Zimbabwe) were very much capable of causing a set back for us, so every game was important for us," Hafeez said. "We were thinking of getting around 150-160 runs on the board but Ahmed boosted our total and we knew we just had to bowl a disciplined line to clinch the match. The boys are very confident and have started trusting each other, which is something we've been trying to develop."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here