Pakistan combine brute aggression with sensibility

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04 Sep 2022 | 09:07 PM
authorAakash Sivasubramaniam

Pakistan combine brute aggression with sensibility

Mohammad Nawaz turned to be everything that Pakistan were looking for

The notion about Pakistan’s cricket is very one-dimensional in the shortest format. They possess two of the world’s best batters, in the form of Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam but the one-paced nature of their batting was a question mark.

In the absence of Shaheen Afridi and then, Shahnawaz Dahani, Pakistan were bereft of their first-choice pace attack. But they punched and punched to their weight on an enthralling Sunday night in Dubai. It is a win that will probably be talked about for days to come.

“Ek Dam Se Waqt Badal Diye Jazbaat Badal Diye Zindagi Badal Di,” might just be a meme but here in Dubai, it was a reality, Pakistan changed the encounter on a day where they were chasing the game. India had a flawless start, Babar Azam was running out of options but somehow amidst all this chaos is where Pakistan made a game.

A lot of Pakistan’s victory could be attributed to the all-round brilliance from Mohammad Nawaz. The other few could go in Rizwan’s favour, for the way he held the innings together. But if there is one thing that the game taught the cricket fans, Pakistan’s jazba is not dead.

It is beating, it is beating harder than ever.

T20 is a game of 40 overs but the way this particular contest between India and Pakistan went, it was almost like a T20 of four innings, ten overs each. If India had ascendancy in the first part, it was raining Pakistan in the second. In Pakistan’s reply, it was India running away in the first half before Nawaz turned the gear a notch up.

Pakistan’s T20 template might still be sedate. It still might not be as flashy, as aggressive as the other T20I sides in the world but it is one that has shown signs of flexibility. Flexibility that not a whole lot of people could have seen coming during the halfway stage of this encounter.

And when Babar failed, perhaps, a lot on the other side of the border would have switched their televisions off. But time and again, Pakistan’s middle-order step up and put up a strong word that they can not be taken lightly.

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T20s are all about having a one over your opponent, in terms of strategy and execution and on Sunday, Pakistan could proudly make a case for the same. One of the crucial components of this win for the Men in Green would be Nawaz. Nawaz is 28, he is from Rawalpindi, a city known for sheer pace and raw skills.

A city that has produced the likes of Shoaib Akhtar, Azhar Mahmood, Mohammad Wasim and Yasir Arafat now would include Nawaz too in it, proudly. Prior to this encounter, his average with the ball was well above his batting average.

With the ball, the left-arm spinner averages 23.61 while his batting average of 15.5 is far away from what could give anyone the slimmer hope. To the naked eyes, it looked like a gamble. Six years ago, the Asia Cup was what gave the then youngster a platform. In 2022, it is the same tournament that is going to make him one of the hottest properties in Pakistan.

“Want to keep things simple. Basic things like line and length. The effort is to turn one or two deliveries to put doubt in the batter's mind,” showed the clarity that the left-hander possessed.

On a night where 382 runs were scored, Nawaz’s spell of 1/25 would be etched in folklore. In his first spell, the left-arm spinner was put under the pump by KL Rahul, conceding eight runs. But his line and length since then, understanding the wicket and the dimensions of the Dubai ground is what makes him more than a street-smart bowler. Against one of the best batters of spin bowling, Suryakumar Yadav, not only did Nawaz concede just six runs but also scalped his wicket, triggering a mini-collapse that set India back by at least 15-20 runs.

The left-arm spinner also conceded only eight runs off nine balls that he bowled to India’s best batter on the night, Virat Kohli. When he identified that short delivery was the way to go, his economy rate stood at 3.4 RPO, where he had a dot-ball percentage of 42.9.

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Ultimately what will be remembered is how Nawaz braved the biggest test: India’s bowling. India’s bowling is well revered in international cricket, they boast a quality that often makes the other teams jealous. At 63/2, with Rizwan on 33 off 24 balls, Pakistan needed someone to come out and swing the long ball.

“Legspinners were in operation and there was one short boundary as well. Needed around 10 rpo at that time. I had clarity about going for it if it was in my area. Sometimes in a high pressure situation when you're looking to go hard, you tend to lose shape,” opened up Nawaz at the post-match presentation.

Nawaz’s role could not be defined clearer. Perhaps that was the making of his heroics, the role clarity that he received. Off his second ball, the left-hander slid back and cut it sharp between the two fielders for a boundary. However, it was his second delivery, a solid flat-batted smash over Hardik Pandya’s head that sent alarming signs to the Indian dressing room.

He was there for the kill. And it was quite visible in his approach, against spin. Whilst he wasn't at his best against the pacers, his game against spin was perhaps the biggest differentiator between the two sides. Alone, the left-hander smacked 22 runs off nine balls against spin, at a strike-rate of 244.44, with a boundary every 2.3 deliveries, with just 11% dot-balls.

Pakistan might have won the contest but the bigger victory for them on the night will be Nawaz, who emerged from the shadows to pull off an improbable win for Pakistan. On a night where Kohli scored a 60, Rizwan scored a 71, it was Nawaz’s display of 1/25 and 42 that won the plaudits. 

Maybe, it is high time T20 cricket moves past just the scoreboard.

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India vs PakistanAsia Cup, 2022PakistanMohammad NawazBabar AzamMohammad Rizwan

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