Former Australian cricketer and current Pakistan team mentor Matthew Hayden feels that the youngster Mohammad Haris’ batting against South Africa was the turning point for the Babar Azam-led side’s campaign in the Men’s T20 World Cup and it instilled confidence in other players as well.
Seemingly dead and buried, Pakistan had just a two percent chance of winning the tournament after their defeat to Zimbabwe but they 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 semifinal ticket, setting up a meeting with New Zealand at the SCG on Wednesday.
They are now two wins away from lifting the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup trophy but it all started with Haris’ knock which led Pakistan to win over the South Africans at the SCG, which has been their most solid performance of the campaign thus far.
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The mentor of the team pinpoints the batting injection of a 21-year-old 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,” said Hayden in the pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
The young batter 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,” he said.
“(Haris is a) great story, a really significant story of any World Cup. Not even in the squad and now performing like he should have been there from the start,” he added.
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, the Australian 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,” the former attacking opener explained.
“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,” he added.
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,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Pakistan won the last T20I between the two sides in mid-October, the final of a tri-series also involving Bangladesh. However, Hayden played down the relevance of the meeting in the context of Wednesday’s semifinal
“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 pressure 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,” he concluded.
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