When Pakistan unveiled its playing eleven today, the most notable change in the line up was that of Raza Hasan, who replaced the erratic Sohail Tanvir as the side’s fourth spin-bowling option.
Four spinners, and two seamers, in Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat and an in-form batting line up. Pakistan’s team for today’s match looked well-balanced. The spinners, as expected, did extremely well and, Hasan included, strangled the opposition. But when Gul was introduced as late as the 18th over, one wondered whether Hafeez should have opted for an extra batsman if Pakistan were to only use one pacer, Arafat.
It was being reported in the media in the build up to the South Africa game that Gul was under some pressure after struggling to find his rhythm in the opening games of the World T20.
Hafeez had spoken in support of his bowler in the few pre-match interviews that he had done, so it then seemed surprising that Gul bowled only two overs. It was surprising but wise, because the four spinners between them were doing a good job.
It is unclear whether any of this or his recent form pushed, but Gul the batsman, looked very determined.
“I knew he can hit the ball hard. He showed character today,” Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez said of the man-of-the-match in the post-match presentation ceremony.
The opposition though, were a bit taken aback at Gul’s ability with the ‘Boom Boom’ willow.
“You have got to give credit to Umar Gul,” Wisden India quoted South African spinner Robin Peterson as saying.
“It’s not every day that someone plays a special innings like that, and that too under pressure. A lot of credit must go to the way they played as well. There was a lot of pressure on them. Gul played an incredible knock. He caught us by surprise and things went his way tonight.”
Pakistani fans will be hoping Gul’s touch with the bat rubs off on his bowling, especially considering their next opposition is the mighty batting line up of India.
South Africa, meanwhile, will take on Australia and the Proteas remain confident despite their loss and Peterson dismissed talks of another ‘choke’.
“Maybe we need to revisit one or two things and sort of move forward from here. We are obviously disappointed by the result but we still have two games to go,” he said.