Super 8s, Group of Death: Should India fear ‘Team’ Pakistan

Super Sunday clash could point to eventual winner

By Allaam Ousman, from Pallkelle

Pakistan has more than one match-winner. Against Bangladesh, however, they played as team and showed that when they do, they are even more dangerous than just the individual brilliance they bring to the T20 format.

India needs to very careful to maintain their record of never having lost a world cup game to Pakistan in any format.

Pakistan came out with guns blazing to qualify for the Super Eights, but Bangladesh gave them some food for thought after nearly achieving their objective of setting them a stiff target at Pallekelle on Tuesday night. 

Bangladesh needed victory by a margin of at least 36 runs to knock out Pakistan from Group D in the World Twenty20 extravaganza. 

They showed positive intent by electing to bat first after winning the toss thanks to a blistering start from openers  Tamim Iqbal and Mohammed Ashraful. 

All-rounder Shakib Al Hasan almost single-handedly continued the momentum by smashing a T20 international career-best 84.    

The left-hander celebrated his 1,000 runs in T20 international with three consecutive boundaries. 

Indeed there were worried looks in the Pakistan camp when Bangladesh had reached 100 at the halfway stage with Shakib  hoisting paceman Umar Gul for a six and four in consecutive  deliveries. 

Former skippers Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik were seen frantically 'advising' Muhammad Hafeez on how to stem the rot. 

Hafeez showed enterprise by opening with the new ball though failing to prevent Bangladesh getting off to a sound start in the powerplay overs. 

The Pakistan skipper was not helped by an indifferent performance by Gul who is turning out to be the Achilles heel in their attack while off spinner Saeed Ajmal went wicketless.

Shakib made Pakistan's bowling look ordinary before falling in the penultimate over as Bangladesh fell short in their bid to set a stiffer target.

It may been a different story if Abul Hasan had held on to a skier from Imran Nazir had made just one.

Nazir made Bangladesh pay for this lapse dearly as he delighted the partisan crowd who were chanting Pakistan Zindabad even before the game began by smashing the fastest 50 off just 25 balls in T20 World Cup history improving on West Indian Chris Gayle's record. 

Hafeez was a perfect foil for Nazir who was not afraid to take the aerial route during their record-breaking century partnership.

The match was over as a contest long before Naser Jamshed sent one over the ropes in the 16th over to seal Pakistan's place in the next round of the competition.

 If Pakistan, the 2009 World T20 champions, looked every bit a genuine contender in its 14-run triumph over New Zealand in the opening group clash on Sunday, they certainly walked the talk against Bangladesh.

But Hafeez has his feet firmly on the ground and refused to get carried away by Tuesday's performance especially Nazir.

He was frugal in praise of his opening partner when asked to rate Nazir's knock.

 "While chasing it is great to see someone from Pakistan playing this sort of innings, we are really happy top order are doing something for the team," he said.

"Kamran (Akmal) and (Imran) Nazir are in good touch. Sometimes he (Nazir) gets rush of blood but I don't stop him (attacking instincts).

“I wish he would continue to win more matches for Pakistan," added Hafeez. 

He admitted being concerned about their bowling.

"I can't say I'm happy with bowlers. Yes, there is little bit  of concern, as a captain, as a team. Our fast bowlers are  delivering," was his damning verdict.

The positives he could take was the performance of Yasir Arafat and Afridi.

Afridi bowled really. It is a good sign for us. In Colombo it will turn for us. These pitches (Pallekelle) are a little bit different," he said.

Bracing himself for the Super Eights in which they are in the Group of Death' along with Australia, South Africa and India, Hafeez was quietly confident they were primed for the task ahead.

Asked which team he would rate as the toughest in the Super Eights group, Hafeez replied: "We know the next three teams in our group are one of the best in the world.”

“We have seen little glimpses of that. We know every team in T20 is very much capable of beating any other team. We are not going ahead with anything in our mind." 

Hafeez warned his team mates they cannot afford to relax as they prepare for a Super Sunday battle with arch rivals India.

"We have to really work hard to win all the matches.

“We are really looking forward to that and boys are really confident that we can do something good for Pakistan," said the skipper who is on the cusp of achieving greater glory for Pakistan.


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