The Telegraph
Sunday , March 30 , 2014
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Break a blessing for Akmal: Hafeez

Dhaka: A six-day break is a luxury in tournaments like a World Cup and can work both ways when it comes to teams like Pakistan. Having played two games within three days, Mohammed Hafeez’s men will return to action against Bangladesh on Sunday afternoon.

India have confirmed their semi-final berth, and a victory against Bangladesh will help Pakistan set up a virtual quarter-final with the West Indies while knocking out Australia. Pakistan edged past Australia by 16 runs in their last match after losing to India. But can Pakistan maintain the momentum after the hiatus?

“In the last six days, we have trained hard…” Hafeez said on Saturday. “The team management has worked on our weaknesses. We’ve all given our 100 per cent despite the rising heat. The build-up to the crucial stage of the tournament has gone off very well.”

The long gap did come as a boon for Umar Akmal, helping him recover from a hamstring injury. The Man of the Match had batted with the injury during his brilliant 94 that overshadowed Glenn Maxwell’s late assault.

“The break was a blessing in disguise because he got rest. The physios worked with him during that time, and he has been practising for two days now,” Hafeez said.

The Pakistan captain is aware of the task in hand. “The picture is very clear… As a team, we’ve to win every game to be through to the semi-final. We know there is no option of making any mistake, and we are ready for it.

“India have played very good cricket so far in the tournament. It’s good that they are through and the rest of the teams know what it will take to advance. In the last game (against Australia), great character was shown by everyone, and we hope to build on it.”

Hafeez made it clear that Pakistan were not going to remain satisfied by reaching the semis. “We always look to do well in tournaments, the expectations should remain high… Our eventual target is not to reach the semi-final but to win the tournament. We have done well in difficult conditions, so we are destined to do well (here).”

Success of the leg-spinners, like Amit Mishra, Samuel Badree and James Muirhead, haven’t come as a surprise for Hafeez.

“There’s place for leg-spin in this format, that’s what they’ve shown in this tournament ... They have not been afraid to toss the ball up in these conditions. It’s good that spinners are getting more success in the T20 format. We have had (Shahid) Afridi with us for many years and he’s doing the job for us. (Saeed) Ajmal (the off-spinner) is also doing a fine job.”

He’s not taking Bangladesh lightly and felt day matches gave opportunities for tall scores. “No team is easy in T20 cricket... We have seen that all teams are capable of giving a tough time to each other. You have to get the basics right to win each and every game. We respect them and will do our level best to win the game.

“Obviously, the conditions are slightly different between night and day games. But the team has to play well in any condition, they have to put up a good show...”