ISLAMABAD - Professor Hafeez and speedster Junaid Khan played excellent cricket to help green shirts square series against Zimbabwe, as Pakistan hammered hosts by 90 runs in the second One-day International played at Harare Sports Club.
Now the momentum is very much in favour of Pakistan team, but they must avoid compliancy, as they are known for getting relaxed. There is no room for error and anything less than same aggression and attitude can cost Pakistan dearly, as Zimbabwe can still win the three-match ODI series, if they managed to win the last one.
Sensational Hafezz shut his critics’ mouths with back-to-back superb performances. His classic and unblemished innings of 136 was a treat to watch not only for the millions of fans in Pakistan but also for the youngsters, who want to follow his footsteps and want to become a part of the national team. Hafeez played masterful innings which was very significant as skipper Misbah, after a long period, failed to contribute with bat while Hafeez not only scored freely but he also guided Umar Amin, like a teacher and helped him scoring his maiden half century. Hafeez’s role reminds Pakistan’s past greats who used to guide juniors and help them in overcoming pressure situations.
Hafeez deserves all the credit for his unblemished knock. His shot selection and significant innings was the main reason behind Pakistan team’s decent total on the board. Zimbabwe skipper Taylor also missed the simple trick, as he must have kept in mind after winning the toss that Pakistan team is very much shaky when it comes to chase targets so instead of inviting the tourists, he should have opted to bat first.
Ahmed Shahzad this time failed to contribute enough runs and threw away his wickets cheaply. Nasir Jamsed showed glimpses of his abilities, but it was unsung hero Umar Amin who batted with lot of authority and showed why he is rated so highly by cricket pundits.
Although the margin of victory was quite huge, but it was not as easy as it looked. Pakistani bowlers once again failed to cash on Zimbabwe batsmen’s mistakes. It was Junaid Khan and to some extent left arm spinner Abdul Rehman who dominated the batsmen and never allowed them any chance to settle down and dictate terms. Drop catches could have cost Pakistan dearly, but the things went in the right direction as batsmen failed to capitalise on fielding errors.
Especially Junaid bowled with pace and venom and he was almost unplayable. Misbah should have asked for Rehman’s inclusion much earlier. Irfan once again failed to stamp out authority as batsmen played him with utmost ease and comfort which is not a good sign for green shirts. Irfan is the main and secret weapon of the team and if he can’t produce wicket-taking deliveries against such an ordinary side, then he will find it really difficult to get wickets against the likes of Proteas and Sri Lankans. Coach must give confidence to Irfan and it will be far better to give him rest in the final ODI and try different combination. Irfan is clearly feeling the heat of burning out so the much-needed rest will help him regain his confidence, passion and authority to bowl well.
Pakistan fielding is a big sign of worry for the fielding coach as drastic improvement is the dire need of the hour because missed catches can cost the team dearly against the top sides so they will not let such silly mistakes go unpunished.
Now the first task of leveling the series has achieved and the team must ensure they not allow hosts to let off the hook. Any leniency on part of the tourists will spell disaster and can cost Pakistan the series. They remained unbeaten against Zimbabwe for almost 15 years or so, till the first ODI defeat so they must show the same aggression to clinch the series. Although the 2-1 margin is not an extraordinary result for the former world champions, but it can still restore some pride.