Mohammad Hafeez, the Lahore Lions captain, said his team was under pressure in a must-win game against Southern Express in Raipur before his half-century lifted them to a match-winning total that eventually secured their passage into the main draw of the Champions League T20.
Lions were 52 for 3 in the eighth over but Hafeez's 67 off 40 balls took them to 164 for 6, after which their bowlers secured a 55-run win. "I think the victory was much needed. To be honest you all knew how important it was," Hafeez said after the game. "We wanted to set a good total early. After losing three wickets, we were bit under pressure because we wanted to set a target and put pressure on the chasing side."
Hafeez had a 75-run stand with Saad Nasim for the fourth wicket, a partnership that was the bedrock of the innings. Nasim, a 24-year old batsman, contributed 31 off 25 balls and credited his captain for guidance during his innings.
"The idea was to take singles and extend the innings and lay a platform. We wanted to consolidate our position and then try and take on the bowling," Nasim told clt20.com. "He [Hafeez] played a brilliant knock. And at the same time he kept telling me what to do and talked me through the innings. I have learnt a lot of things from him - like handling pressure, batting in different situations and many other such things."
When asked about his role in the Lions side, Nasim said: "Basically, I am a middle-order batsman and bat at No. 5 or 6. I was told to play my normal game in difficult times and handle the situation accordingly. Performing here can give me an opportunity to play for the national side. The whole world is watching, which makes it a big thing."
Lions finished second in the qualifying group, behind Northern Knights and ahead of Mumbai Indians and Southern Express. They are now in Group A of the Champions League, along with Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Dolphins and Perth Scorchers. Lions' first game is against Knight Riders on September 21 in Hyderabad.