Colombo: It would have been a surprise had a most unpredictable team produced stunning back-to-back performances. That way, then, Pakistan didn’t disappoint in the World Twenty20 semi-final against Sri Lanka.
After a stellar show versus Australia on Tuesday, Pakistan failed to chase down 140 (at best a competitive target), on Thursday.
That Mohammed Hafeez lost the toss appeared to affect the team far more than it should have.
By being able to defend 139 for four, Sri Lanka made their fourth World final in five years, an absolutely remarkable feat.
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- Captain Hafeez defends Afridi after Pakistan's exit
“It’s an amazing feeling... One is lucky to play in one World final, but Sunday will be my fourth (two World Cups and as many World Twenty20 finals)... We’re a proud cricketing nation,” said captain and MoM Mahela Jayawardene.
For tactical reasons, Jayawardene was initially in two minds over captaining, something he didn’t do in the last Super Eight game, but decided that he needed to confront the challenge head-on.
“The thought of possibly having to miss the final (if Sri Lanka were again slow with the over-rate) did cross my mind before the match, but a semi-final was too big a game not to lead in,” Jayawardene explained.
While Jayawardene didn’t have tough questions to face, counterpart Hafeez was bombarded with missiles during his interaction with the media.
Clearly, there’s an anti-Shahid Afridi lobby in Pakistan, for Hafeez was pilloried for defending the out-of-form former captain.
Afridi totalled a shocking 30 only and took a mere four wickets in the tournament. Hafeez, however, kept saying that he’d been working “very hard” and was a “match-winner.”
One needn’t be surprised if Afridi, who has completed 16 years at the international level, quits all formats in the near future.
Like India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who termed his team’s performance as “brilliant,” Hafeez felt that his men played “great cricket,” except in the semi-final.
India, of course, exited in the Super Eights.
“I’m proud of what the team did... We played positively and reaching the semi-final is creditable... We should have chased 140, but regularly lost wickets in the middle-order..."
“In T20, the pressure can get to you and, while batting, you need to think out of the box,” Hafeez said.
For good measure, Hafeez added that no one player can be blamed for a defeat, nor be praised for a win.
In adding to the bowling, Pakistan dropped all-rounder Abdul Razzaq for Sohail Tanvir. The latter went wicketless, but forced Sri Lanka to alter their strategy somewhat.
Sri Lanka fielded 34-year-old left-arm spinner Rangana Herath. It turned out to be a hugely successful move.
Later, Hafeez told The Telegraph: “I know there’s criticism, but I’ll stay tough (mentally).”
Sri Lanka, as Jayawardene would say, “handled the tough situations better than the opposition.”
The hosts’ win seemed to bring all of Colombo out on the streets, with cars and autos flying the national flag and hooting down the main thoroughfares.
What’s going to happen on Sunday night?