Despite Pakistan overcoming Zimbabwe to secure their place in the tri-series final, their captain Sarfraz Ahmed was vocal in the criticism of his bowling attack. “The bowling was not up to the mark,” he said shortly after guiding his side to a seven-wicket win. “They have to work hard.”
Sarfraz had been a loud and, at times, stroppy presence behind the stumps during Zimbabwe’s innings. The very first ball of the day seemed to set the tone, as Sarfraz let rip with a fearful ear-bashing at Fakhar Zaman when he was slow off the mark from midwicket, allowing Zimbabwe opener Cephas Zhuwao to get off the mark. There wasn’t much let up thereafter.
But Zaman shrugged off Sarfraz’s histrionics, suggesting that the team are comfortable under their captain and that, perhaps, a bit of sound and fury was what was needed to sharpen them up on a particularly cold winter’s day in Harare. “Yeah, he’s the kind of person who does that sometimes,” said Zaman. “But he’s very good at getting us up on the field. We’re used to it and he’s our captain. And well, it works for us and it worked today.”
Sarfraz also had some fiery words for his bowlers, ticking Shadab Khan off during an over when Solomon Mire hit him for two big sixes. Mire took the attack to Pakistan’s bowlers, and Zaman admitted that Zimbabwe had scored 20 to 30 more runs than they thought was par on this pitch.
“We were expecting 130 to 140 on this pitch, but Mire played a very good innings,” Zaman said. “We knew that we have a very deep batting lineup – we have Shadab at no. 9 – so we were confident we could chase it.”
As it turned out, Pakistan’s lower order wasn’t needed as Zaman and Hussain Talat cracked forties before Sarfraz finished things off with an ice-cold, unbeaten 38. While his tongue-lashing geed them up, Sarfraz’s batting was the picture of limited-overs sangfroid and provided a different sort of a lesson to his team. Zaman said that spending time under Sarfraz had helped him improve his own game, particularly in T20 cricket.
“In the start in T20 I was hitting every ball in my striking zone, and after playing eight to 10 games I sat with some senior players like Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed, and spoke about my gameplans with them,” Zaman said. “I realised that I could play proper cricket shots and be successful, and that’s what I’ve been doing recently.”
Pakistan’s win means they are assured of a place in Sunday’s final, though they have a dead rubber against Australia tomorrow. Bucking their recent trend in short-format cricket, Australia have won two in two in this tournament and they were buoyed by an opening victory against Pakistan which included Billy Stanlake’s 4 for 8.
“We’ll just keep it very simple [against Australia],” Zaman said.
“[Stanlake] bowled really well in the last match but every day is a new day. We’ll play him well.”