Sydney: Former Australia opener and currently Pakistan mentor Matthew Hayden has termed inclusion of youngster Mohammad Haris as the turning point in the Pakistan T20 World Cup campaign
Seemingly dead and buried earlier in the tournament, Pakistan now stand two wins away from lifting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup trophy.
Babar Azam’s men had just a two per cent chance of winning the tournament after their defeat to Zimbabwe, though were handed a lifeline when the Netherlands upset South Africa in Adelaide. A grateful Pakistan capitalised on the Proteas collapse, beating Bangladesh to punch their semi-final ticket, setting up a meeting with New Zealand at the SCG on Wednesday.
It’s the second chance the men in green were never going to pass up, and Pakistan mentor/batting coach Matthew Hayden believes the spirits are high in the camp.
“Lots of prayers as Pakistan woke up to see that result (Netherlands beating South Africa). 232 million people can’t be wrong.
“And as a result of that, I feel that there was very much an uplifting tempo in our group, which made that match against Bangladesh almost a certainty for Pakistan.”
The Sunday to end the Super 12 phase of the T20 World Cup was certainly serendipitous, though it took a turn around in their own form to make semi-final qualification possible. For Hayden, while the mood of the camp lifted when their tournament path re-opened, the pieces of the side’s plans on the field fell into place earlier.
Pakistan’s win over the South Africans at the SCG was their most solid performance of the campaign thus far, and the mentor of the team pinpoints the batting injection of Mohammad Haris as when their campaign moved up a gear.
“Haris was magnificent. That was a real turning point for our team.”
When he walked in to bat, it was basically a breath of fresh air that awakened Pakistan’s batting lineup.”
The 21-year-old from Peshawar walked out at 4/1 in the first over, though did not take a backward step, plundering 28 from 11 balls in a vicious counter-attack, with two fours and three sixes. Not only did it kickstart Pakistan’s innings – Hayden believes it instilled confidence in his teammates further down the order.
“It wasn’t the Babar and Rizwan show, the batting lineup had to dig deep. And Shadab on that occasion was unbelievable, the middle order having to definitely stand up.
“(Haris is a) great story, really significant story of any World Cup. Not even in the squad and now performing like he should have been there from the start.”
Waiting for bowlers to overpitch, though quick on the short stuff, Haris seemingly takes part of the batting responsibility off the shoulders of the opening pair of Babar and Muhammad Rizwan. An opener himself for many years, Hayden appreciates how Haris’ work builds those around.
“It’s no surprise to see how he came in and played so beautifully. He’s got a very good technique on our fast bouncy wickets. He’s got a freshness.
“He was the one individual that came into every net session and played all of our quicks. For me, that was like facing McGrath, Warne, Lee, Gillespie, if you could face those batters, those bowlers, and you’re playing well, you knew you had a great chance of making runs in the actual game.”
Pakistan have fond recent memories of the SCG after the Proteas victory, though the same can be said of New Zealand, who beat both Australia and Sri Lanka in emphatic fashion, comfortably defending their totals on both occasions.
Hayden insists the Sydney surface is the best for Pakistan’s players to shine, though credits former Australian teammate Shaun Tait, Pakistan’s fast-bowling coach, in preparing the quicks for battle.
“If any conditions in Australia suit us as subcontinental players, I think this is the venue.
“I sense, though, Shaun Tait has done a really good job in preparing the fast bowlers for this track as well. Naseem (Shah) put together a great performance that night at the SCG. A good comeback as well from Haris Rauf, expensive in his first few overs, but bowled on this track really well.
Pakistan claimed the last T20I between the two sides in mid-October, the final of a tri-series also involving Bangladesh.
Hayden played down the relevance of the meeting in the context of Wednesday’s semi-final
“Really it comes down to just that sense of belief and that purpose.”
“It’s one of the few versions of our sport where it’s not just a test of skill sets under pressur,e but it’s also a test of innovation. And I think New Zealand have really shown some wonderful innovation through the course of this tournament and for the last number of years.”