Pakistan defeated New Zealand by six wickets in the second T20I on Friday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. Here are our five takeaways from that match.
1- Numbers don't lie, not when they're this many
Eight straight T20I win, 11 consecutive T20I series wins, 11th consecutive win in run chase, one defeat in last 14 T20Is — these sequences or near sequences only tell one thing: Pakistan are pretty darn good in 20-a-side format and fully deserve their number one rank in the ICC rankings.
Numbers can sometimes paint a very flattering picture, but when they're accumulated over almost a span of a year and includes wins over the likes of Australia and New Zealand (both home and away) you have to take them seriously.
Asia Cup taught us that Pakistan's ODI side is a mess, their Test team could very easily embarrass itself in South Africa starting next month, but the T20I bunch is different. They're efficient, ruthless and a lot of the players have found their natural range in the format. Stretch the game to 50 over or five days, and their technical frailties may get exposed but in the 120-ball-game when technique and temperament don't matter much, Pakistan appear at home.
2- Pakistan's T20I brilliance makes complete sense
Pakistan's love affair and their uncharacteristically consistent brilliance may not make sense to the most of the world but those who know the local culture know why it is how it is.
The country does not have a proper infrastructure for even its beloved game. Devoid of facilities and clubs and grounds, the entire nation's favourite pastime is street cricket. Played with tape ball over a small number of overs, street cricket requires its players to hit hard, score quick, bowl deviously and nick wickets ... that's it.
Fortunately for Pakistan, that is also pretty much the master plan in the T20Is too.
3-The new Afridi
In both bowling and batting, this team has so many options that it's almost impossible for the opposition to make a plan for any one person. If Imad Wasim doesn't get you with his fast, wicket-to-wicket spin, then Hasan Ali will, if Hasan Ali doesn't then there is Shadab, if he doesn't then the part-timers will do the damage. There's no respite for the batsmen.
In this particular game, it was the young Shaheen Shah Afridi's turn. The 6-foot-gazillion-inches tall pacer picked three wickets for just 20 runs, and was the man of the match. At just 18, he is a stud in the making. If he could just put some meat on them bones, elude injuries, and manage his workload well, he could be hitting 150kmph in a few years.
4-New Hafeez > Old Hafeez
With the bat, it was a team effort with the entire top order pitching runs. Having said that, the star of the show truly was Mohammad Hafeez, who has been a man on a mission since being recalled.
Where the Hafeez of old would stutter, struggle and throw away his wicket, this new rejuvenated one is more confident, takes his chances and delivers. Who says old dogs can't learn new tricks. Turns out, they can, if they are given a time out and reminded to not take their spot in the side for granted.
5- A thought on Asif Ali and the missed full toss
The only real disappointment of the game was the manner of Asif Ali's innings and dismissal. His 38-run innings laced with two big sixes does not hide the fact that when the going gets tough, his only response is to swing wildly.
But it had been understandable had he just swung and missed and gotten out, because that's life in the world of Asif. Problem is that he somehow managed to connect with a full toss, and whenever that happens to a specialist batsman, he should always be rebuked.
The writer is a cricket aficionado based in Karachi.