Calcutta: Shahid Afridi has seen it all during his 17-year career. He thrives on challenges and the surge that pressure brings always inspires him to do things out of the ordinary.
On Sunday in Mirpur, as Pakistan needed nine off the last four balls with one wicket remaining, many thought it would be another case of Pakistan coming a cropper in the end. But not Afridi! He clobbered the next two deliveries from Ravichandran Ashwin for two sixes to pull off a scintillating victory.
Pakistan needed 43 off the last five overs. The next two overs yielded 26. Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneswar Kumar made it tougher for Pakistan, giving away only four and three runs, respectively in the 48th and 49th overs, respectively.
But Afridi surely didn’t pay much heed to such reverses. Also praiseworthy was the all-round effort put in by Mohammed Hafeez who lent solidity to their innings in the middle-overs with a solid 75.
The Indians, in the end, only rued their missed chances. What if Dinesh Karthik had been a little more alert behind the wickets and not let off Sohaib Maqsood on 14 and 21!
The Indians’ chances are all but over in the Asia Cup. Only a few miracles can now help India advance. Following their debacles in South Africa and New Zealand, this is sure to rankle ahead of the World T20 later this month.
Captain Misbah-ul Haq was happy that they had been able to shed off the tag of poor chasers.
The following are excerpts
Misbah-ul Haq: It was a very important win for us… I am happy because we were labelled ‘poor chasers’. Today we pulled off a win after being under tremendous pressure. We lost four quick wickets… And then there was a brilliant partnership between Hafeez and (Sohaib) Maqsood, and then Afridi finished it off really well.
The message was very clear when Afridi went in to bat. There was dew on the field and we wanted to take the match till the end. And that’s what we wanted him to do. We know that he is capable of hitting two-three sixes in an over and finish it off... And that is exactly what he did today.
If I am not scoring and Pakistan are still winning, there’s nothing better than that. We have a great chance of reaching the final. But we are not thinking about that.
Virat Kohli: Our idea was to rotate the bowlers in short spells. We didn’t want them to get used to a particular bowler. Defending 245 on this kind of wicket, the guys did a commendable job. They did put up a great effort and I am proud of that.
Amit Mishra was getting some spin and so I decided to leave him for the last few overs. Ashwin was confident about his death bowling so I kept his two overs as well. Bhuvneshwar (Kumar) and Shami had one over each. So I tried to rotate the bowlers in the right way and put pressure on them. But Afridi came in and played some big shots and took the game away. However, the move had almost paid off or us.
We were a few runs short batting first on a hard surface. We were a bit slow at the beginning, but as the game progressed we gained momentum. 260 would have been competitive. It has been a learning experience for me as a captain. This game was a bit nice, the last one was a bit tough. But we had almost pulled off that match as well. I am happy with the way the guys are playing. They have shown great character. With the kind of inexperience we have in our bowling, I think they have played really well. And this is a pleasing thing to see.
Mohammed Hafeez (MoM): First of all, I would like to thank the almighty for the way we won the game. And then I would like to thank the team management. They wanted me to bat at No. 3. They had told me that “we need a batsman at No. 3 and we want you to be there”. I am happy that I could play well in that position.
My captain always wants me to bowl at the start of the innings whenever there is a left-handed batsman at the wicket. I can play any role for my captain. He is using me very well and very happy to do well for Pakistan.
We had the plan to try and bat till the end since we lost four quick wickets. I had a chat with Maqsood and we decided to play normal cricket and as long as possible since the required run rate was not high. We decided to take the long way out. And in the end, Afridi created a magnetic episode.
Shahid Afridi: To be honest, I was really under pressure. I was not playing well for the last couple of matches, I was playing some bad shots as well. Expectations were high from me, and thankfully, I delivered. We all know how important this game was and I am glad I did it. Whenever we are playing against India, it’s a great occasion and I’m very happy.
The captain was constantly asking me to play myself in and take my time. This time I tried to take my time and it worked. Umar Gul was talking a lot with me. We wanted to keep on taking singles and play the big shots as well.
Our goal was to win this competition. It’s very important for us, because we all know where we are standing at the moment. I want to thank the Bangladeshi crowd for supporting us.