HYDERABAD: Wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan has acknowledged that Pakistan need to improve in several areas following the team’s five-wicket loss to New Zealand in their World Cup warm-up in Hyderabad on Friday.
“The main purpose of warm-up matches is to scrutinise the areas requiring improvement. In this regard, we did some experimentation in the [New Zealand] game which gave us encouraging results as well as underlined the things needing improvement,” Rizwan said in his comments after the match.
“Our fielding in this warm-up was not as good as it has been during the past one and a half years. It is the [particular] area we need to work on. You will see change [in fielding] in the coming matches.”
Batting at number four, right-handed Rizwan in the warm-up hit an impressive century as Pakistan after electing to bat first totalled 345-5 off the stipulated overs inside an eerily empty Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium. The game was played behind closed doors due to a Hindu festival and security issues in the southern Indian city.
Rizwan hit 103 with nine fours and two sixes in his 94-ball innings while skipper Babar Azam made 80. Young middle-order Saud Shakeel smashed a 53-ball 75.
Rachin Ravindra and the returning Kane Williamson then played key knocks as New Zealand chased down the target with 6.2 overs to spare.
Ravindra (97) and Williamson (54) put on 137 to put their team on course against a Pakistan attack missing pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi. Daryl Mitchell made 59 before Mark Chapman, who made 65 not out, sealed victory with a six.
Talking about his hundred, the wicket-keeper/batter said, “A hundred is hundred in any conditions. I feel proud, confident and satisfied.”
According to Rizwan, playing a major event in India was in all probability going to be a different experience.
“Playing and performing impressively for your country on India soil is emotionally a very different feeling. It is a challenge too. On our part, we’ll try our best to come up to the expectations of our fans back in Pakistan,” the 31-year-old said.
Rizwan said the welcome Pakistan’s World Cup squad received on its arrival in Hyderabad was tremendous.
“The warm welcome and love we got from the Indian fans was stunning. The massive greeting in and outside the Hyderabad [Deccan] airport was like we had arrived in Karachi or Lahore after winning the World Cup,” Rizwan stated.
“The love from the Indian fans was the same which we find in the people in Pakistan.”
Meanwhile, Williamson made an encouraging half-century on his return from injury in the warm-up against Pakistan.
The right-handed veteran has been ruled out of the Oct 5 tournament opener against England to give him more time to complete his rehabilitation from a knee surgery.
Relieved of his captaincy duty in the warm-up, the 33-year-old Williamson did not look in any discomfort during his fluent half-century before retiring.
“Just great to get through with some batting and be out in the middle,” he said after the warm-up.
“It held up pretty well, so that’s good. A little bit of icing afterwards, but it’s all part of the process,” Williamson said of his knee.
Williamson said he was not sure of returning for the tournament after sustaining the injury during the Indian Premier League earlier this year.
“It was certainly not a reality five months ago. I’m fortunate with the recovery and being named in the squad was really exciting for me.
“I’m just really looking forward to getting out there again, and it was nice to do that today.”
Pakistan play their final warm-up against Australia on Oct 3 at the same venue.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023