Everyone knows that Pakistan always do well when they have their backs to the wall; tonight's do-or-die situation, which could have seen them out of the World Twenty20, brought out the absolute best in them.
Everything clicked for them. Absolutely everything!
Here's a quick list of things that resulted in Pakistan's outstanding performance tonight.
- Salman Butt. Its amazing how one less Butt on the field can significantly enhance the fielding performance of the team.
- Abdul Razzaq. What an outstanding comeback. He led the attack with aplomb, provided early breakthroughs, and was also the reason why Umar Gul was so potent today.
- Umar Gul. Its no secret that Pakistan look to bring him on in the 13th over to bowl straight through at the death. He did it in the 2007 tournament and also in T20 internationals following that.
The bad starts by Tanvir and Yasir in previous games did not allow Younis to do that, and Gul ended up bowling much earlier than desired. Razzaq's performance today allowed Gul to be kept for the later stages, and he turned out at his destructive best!
He bowled fast, bowled crushing yorkers, managed best bowling figures in a T20 international, and got a first ever 5 wicket haul in a T20I.
All that keep him at the top of the leading wicket takers of all time in T20Is.
- Shahid Afridi. He never fails to impress on the field. Another boom boom performance with the ball; what stood out today though was that catch to dismiss Styris.
Has to be one of the best catches I have seen. And surely the best by a Pakistani.
- Discipline. No extras, fielding was spot on, they stopped the boundaries, caught their catches, and even caused run outs! Again, what one less Butt can do to the enthusiasm, passion, and commitment.
- Opening. They got their best start of the competition and it was also due to the absence of one certain (surpise surprise) Butt at that position.
- Shahzaib Hasan. He just took to the bowling the way he's done at the domestic level and showed everyone why Rashid Latif and Younis Khan spoke so highly of the boy.
Definitely the kind of T20 opener Pakistan needs. Not too much technique though, but extremely effective and exactly what is required for 20-20 cricket. The Butt can keep the bench warm.
Before I sign off, a few concerns.
Pakistan tweaked around with their batting order to improve their net run rate; that could come into play if New Zealand beat Sri Lanka, which doesn't look likely though.
Giving confidence to Razzaq and Afridi was also important as their form in the lower middle order will be critical in the coming matches.
However, I strongly believe that much should not be expected of Afridi with the bat. He should bat lower in the order; after the likes of Fawad Alam as well.
Razzaq at 3 should work. He can take any attack apart on his day and an out of form Malik will be better off at 6, with Younis and Misbah in between.
At the end, Pakistan lives to fight another day in the Super 8s.
Ireland also presents a do or die situation, and we all know what Pakistan does when faced with that!