Comeback win over Kiwis proves Pakistan have made a habit of winning

Updated November 01, 2018

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Hasan Ali (R) celebrates after he dismissed New Zealand's Tim Seifert (L). — AFP
Hasan Ali (R) celebrates after he dismissed New Zealand's Tim Seifert (L). — AFP

New Zealand are in cruise control at 50-0 in just 5.3 overs, with the required run-rate sliding under seven runs an over.

Captain Sarfraz Ahmed is animated in the field and is waving his arms in all directions.

Hasan Ali runs in; he has already been hit for a four and a six earlier in the over. It’s a well-disguised slower delivery from the back of his hand.

BOOM.

It’s the sound of timber.

Smoke bomb and arms wide open, Hasan Ali rises like he owns the pitch. It’s typical of him.

I have been ardently tracking this young Pakistani team, like I have followed many before. I smuggled my radio to school when Wasim Akram and Imran Khan put on 191 runs against Australia in Adelaide.

Almost 30 years later, in the middle of a serious meeting, I have my phone streaming Sarfraz Ahmed and Fakhar Zaman in a reminiscent counter attack, with Pakistan’s backs to the wall at 55-7 in Abu Dhabi against Australia.

Sarfraz is fun to watch; he has always been a brave, busy boy, and I want him to score. Fakhar Zaman is a treat too. Often rash and brash, both these lads wear their attitude on sleeves that makes ordinary men into heroes. The kind that wins you games, the bright shinning stars of Pakistan, the ones that sell posters on the streets of Lahore and Karachi.

Pakistan cricketers celebrate after New Zealand's cricketer Colin de Grandhomme is dismissed. — AFP
Pakistan cricketers celebrate after New Zealand's cricketer Colin de Grandhomme is dismissed. — AFP

A common complaint in recent times has been the dearth of such stars in Pakistan cricket. Generations of a bygone era always recall larger-than-life champions.

Hanif Muhammad and Fazal Mahmood under Abdul Hafeez Kardar, a team full of English County captains under Mushtaq Muhammad, and the culmination of all of their virtues in a team led by Imran Khan.

Perhaps the most talented bunch, and arguably the biggest underachievers, blossomed and burned under the paradoxical leadership of Imran’s greatest prodigy, Wasim Akram.

Wasim Akram was made the Test captain in 1993, and as many as 13 cricketers that played under him went on to lead the five-day side, whereas there had only been 14 Test captains in the preceding 41 years of Pakistan cricket.

This was also the first generation that had cricket heroes turn into real life villains. The flag bearers of Pakistan were tried and convicted for the most heinous crimes of them all; treason, selling out their own team and country. The pits of which were reached at the Southwark Crown Court in 2010.

Colin Munro plays a shot as Pakistan's wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed looks on. — AFP
Colin Munro plays a shot as Pakistan's wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed looks on. — AFP

Misbahul Haq and Younis Khan picked up the bits and pieces of what was left of a battered and bruised Pakistani cricket team.

Mis-You created an environment where honesty and dedication trumped flamboyance and swagger.

Team Misbah was truly greater than the sum of all its parts. Unlike the Pakistani teams of the past, they thrived not on individual brilliance but on collective vitality.

Perhaps the slow and hard grinding style that helped Team Misbah scale such great heights in the longer format was the same environment that came to haunt them in the shorter forms of the game.

However, Sarfraz Ahmed has quickly come out of the shadows of the shoes he has replaced. His team has won 27 out of the previous 31 T20Is, making Pakistan the clear number one T20I team in the world.

Back to the game on hand: after Hasan Ali's breakthrough in the sixth over, New Zealand build another partnership and take the score to 79/1.

Munro slaps Shadab Khan for four through a cocky switch-hit. Fearless Shadab flights the next one even more, and Munro puts it down the throat of long on. Shadab Khan one-up, New Zealand two-down!

Pakistan’s young guns have tasted blood, and now they want more.

Imad Wasim gets a wicket in the next over and Shadab Khan fires one in from point to hit the only stump he can see. New Zealand are suddenly reeling at 89/4.

Shadab Khan bowls a ball during the first T20 cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand. — AFP
Shadab Khan bowls a ball during the first T20 cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand. — AFP

The Black Caps regroup but the Greenshirts keep the screws tight on an ever-climbing required run rate. The equation is 26 required off the last 12 balls with six wickets in hand.

The game has gone the distance and Hasan Ali is given the most important over of the game.

He dismisses the dangerous Cory Anderson on the first ball of the 19th over, and clean bowls wicketkeeper Tim Seifert on the last.

Winning is a habit, and the current crop of Pakistan's T20 team has made a routine out of it. No matter what position they are in, they believe they can win.

This conviction changes everything; this attitude is what makes heroes, it's what sells posters, it inspires.

With 10 consecutive T20 series wins in a row, the stats for Sarfraz Ahmed are looking good. But the numbers don't even tell the entire story.

They don't reflect the fire in Imad Wasim's eyes and the fury in Fakhar Zaman's shellacking, the spring in Shadab Khan's step and the poise in Babar Azam's balance.

This young generation of Pakistani cricketers has brought back all that makes us weak in our knees.