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Match Analysis

Fast, just fast: Rauf stirs Karachi's primal instincts

He dispensed with the canny variations, the subtle sleights of hand that are so instrumental to modern T20 bowling

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
26-Sep-2022
Haris Rauf roars in celebration  •  Getty Images

Haris Rauf roars in celebration  •  Getty Images

Mohammad Hasnain has the raw pace and ability to be a quintessentially Pakistani fast bowler, but somewhere along the closely guarded state secret that is the Pakistan pace-bowling production line, they forgot to add exuberant confidence and replaced it instead with a tender vulnerability.
Having dominated the day for his side, effectively keeping them in the hunt to defend a total they had no business defending, Hasnain had crumpled under the pressure at the death. Every boundary Liam Dawson hit seemed to further feed into Hasnain's insecurities, the young quick's confidence taking one body blow after another as Dawson hammered furiously away. Hasnain, who somehow looks like the happiest kid in the world, yet also someone on the verge of being overwhelmed at the same time, was punch-drunk by the time the over ended, and Pakistan were on the ropes.
The 22-year old has the most infectious, sweetest smile in Pakistan cricket, and yet, as he staggered towards the midwicket boundary, he didn't lift his head up once. Earlier that evening, Karachi was lit up by Hasnain as he forced England's backs to the wall in the powerplay. In the 16th over, he had the confidence to go for six straight yorkers, four of them to the same batter who had just taken him apart, and come out on top. He took his place on the boundary rope, eyes firmly on the ground, as another man marked his run-up.
There were no hiccups at the production line the day they were manufacturing Haris Rauf; if anything, they might have handed over Hasnain's share of confidence and extroverted charisma to him, too. Out of nowhere, England are on course to steal a game they have no business being a part of. Pakistan have just gone from ecstasy to anguish in the space of one over. But Rauf represents Lahore Qalandars, so he's well acquainted with that feeling.
Babar Azam has his head in his hands, incredulous. Many in Lahore had wanted him, as a native-born Lahori, to represent the Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League. That seems unlikely to happen in the near future, particularly in light of recent events. But he's just been given a taster of what he can expect should he decide to make the switch from Karachi.
Rauf has boiled it down to the most rudimentary equation of all. There's a batter, and there's a bowler, and if you bowl it fast enough, you'll beat the batter for pace and knock back his stumps
Rauf has an expression that suggests either he has total confidence in the impossible assignment he's been handed, or absolutely no clue what he needs to do. It's an emotional ambivalence that's often seen with Rauf in tight situations. Early on in his career, when things didn't go his way, he was perceived to have "bottled it", accused of lacking situational awareness in these scenarios. In truth, he'd been handed a hospital pass, tasked with staging a heist for the ages.
That avenue seems to have been closed off completely when Dawson steers what appears to be a slower, short ball over midwicket for four, bringing the equation down to five off ten. Mark Butcher on commentary remarks that Dawson was "always the bridesmaid, never the bride", perhaps certain that this time, even he had worked himself into the role of main character. This might be Pakistan's 200th T20I, more games than any other international side has played. But on days like this, it seems they understand this format less than just about any other side.
Having just seen that ball dispatched, Rauf steams in once more, and delivers the exact same delivery. This time, however, he has dispensed with the canny variations, the subtle sleights of hand that are so instrumental to modern T20 bowling. He ran in as he presumably would if he were playing gully cricket on the streets of Rawalpindi, or perhaps when he was trying out for the Lahore Qalandars' Pace Development Programme that saw him burst into the limelight. That was the kind of cricket Rauf was most comfortable playing, what he was best at. He was Pakistani, and what Pakistanis did was bowl fast.
The pace is much too hot for Dawson to handle, and it's a little wider; Dawson is late on it, pulling tamely into the onside, where the substitute Mohammad Haris pouches it at midwicket. It gives Pakistan the sliver of an opening, but Rauf seems to have liberated himself from the occasion, and instead suddenly appears to be pulling the strings from beyond. The situation doesn't seem to factor into any of his considerations as he lurks menacingly at the base of his run-up while the debutant Olly Stone takes guard. This isn't Stone's forte, but it very much is Rauf's.
Rauf has boiled it down to the most rudimentary equation of all. There's a batter, and there's a bowler, and if you bowl it fast enough, you'll beat the batter for pace and knock back his stumps. It's the first dismissal any bowler envisages in their mind's eye, and the most primitively exhilarating of all. Rauf in this mood has stirred the primal instincts of all of Karachi.
It's fast, so fast Stone is barely through his backlift before the ball whooshes past the outside edge and cannons into off stump. It ricochets away to deep third as Haris swaggers to his captain at short cover, his gait indicative of a man who expected no other outcome. He's already thinking of the next delivery, and of poor Reece Topley.
It feels ages ago that Dawson hit that boundary, and England are still five away. That might as well be irrelevant in this intoxicating moment as Rauf eyes up a hat-trick: in his mind - and Karachi's - the only way this contest should end. The ball is sent down at 156kph, tailing in on Topley's ankles. He can do nothing about it, and while it's obviously going down, no one can stop Rauf reviewing.
Hawk-Eye confirms it's missing, and that it actually pitched outside leg, leaving Adil Rashid one ball, which he tries to use to shield the strike. But, sent down at 155kph, the very idea of getting bat to it seems unrealistic, and England are still four runs away.
They will never get there. Two balls later, they set off for a desperate single, and Pakistan knock them out of the contest. Rauf's over has frazzled them, playing havoc with their composure.
Hasnain rushes in from the boundary, making a beeline for the huddle that's forming in the circle. This time, the head is up, and that beaming, infectious smile is on full display. Without his burst up top, there would be no Houdini act for Rauf to pull off. But he's happy to let Rauf take the limelight. And Haris Rauf, of course, is happy to bask in it.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000