PAKISTAN’S victory in the tri-series final against Australia on Sunday has not only brought joy to fans but has also boosted the credentials of Sarfraz Ahmed and his men as a front-ranking team in international cricket. The magnificent six-wicket win at Harare is further proof of the newfound doggedness and mental strength that the cricket team have shown this summer. Subsequent to their tour of the UK and Ireland in May-June, where they got the better of debutants Ireland at Dublin and a formidable England side at Lord’s in the Test matches, the Pakistanis have now confirmed their standing with their most recent performance in Zimbabwe. To skipper Sarfraz’s credit, his never-say-die approach has clearly rubbed off on talented teammates such as Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fahim Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and others who have pulled off so many fine wins in recent months. The Harare win was Pakistan’s ninth successive T20 series victory, which keeps them firmly in position as the world number one T20 side in ICC rankings. Since the 2016 World T20, Pakistan have not lost a T20 series, defeating England, the West Indies, Sri Lanka, Scotland, New Zealand and now Zimbabwe and Australia.
In left-handed Fakhar, Pakistan seems to have rediscovered a Saeed Anwar who was such a gifted player in the 1990s and won many laurels for the country. Fakhar’s array of shots, coupled with his fine temperament, has worked well. His breezy 91 in Sunday’s final is a testament to that, as was his brilliant century in the Champions Trophy final against India last year at The Oval. The Shoaib Malik factor merits special mention too. The veteran all-rounder has established himself as a finisher, a quality often lacked by previous national players. Thankfully, national selectors have consistently picked players on the basis of merit, while head coach Mickey Arthur and his support staff have groomed the squad well for the challenges at hand. All this is a positive sign for Pakistan cricket.
Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2018