By our correspondent
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan had a perfect start to their ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 campaign with a thumping 81-run win over the Netherlands at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium thanks to some outstanding performances.
Pakistan found themselves three down for 38 after being inserted, but a sparkling partnership worth 120 off 114 between Mohammad Rizwan and Saud Shakeel, the World Cup debutant, rebuilt the innings before all-rounders Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz put together a 64-run stand for the seventh wicket to lift their side to 286.
While Rizwan made 68 off 75, which was his seventh half-century of the year, it was Saud, playing only his seventh ODI, who got the limelight with a 52-ball 68, hitting nine fours and a maximum. The next best score in the innings came from Nawaz, who made 39 off 43, and Shadab scored 32 off 34.
There were initial hiccups in Pakistan’s defence as half-centurions Vikramjit Singh and Bas de Leede added 70 off 76 for the third wicket, before Haris Rauf’s two wickets in three balls thumped Pakistan’s authority in the contest. Hasan Ali, returning to ODI cricket after a gap of over 15 months, finished with two wickets, and Shaheen Afridi, Iftikhar Ahmed, Nawaz and Shadab picked up a wicket each.
Pakistan managed the net run rate of 1.620 for rolling out the opposition in 41 overs. De Leede, who made 67 off 68, threatened to take the proceedings further deep that could have lowered Pakistan’s net run rate but a Nawaz ripper undid the right-hander in the 34th over.
They play Sri Lanka tomorrow in what will be their final outing in Hyderabad in this tournament, and are eager to leave the city with two wins in two matches. Speaking to PCB Digital ahead of the contest, Nawaz, said, “It is very important to start a big tournament on a positive note and that is what we were looking for.”
“We have played two practice matches here and our tournament opener in Hyderabad. It all, however, boils down to playing good cricket on the day and executing your skills perfectly. We are hopeful of carrying the momentum that we have gained by beating the Netherlands and finishing the Hyderabad leg with a win.”
That Pakistan were able to set a defendable score after initial dismissals was because of some brilliant rearguard partnerships in the middle and lower-middle order. While reflecting on those partnerships and Saud’s incredible half-century, Nawaz said, “It was an outstanding partnership between Rizwan and Saud Shakeel considering the circumstances it came in. Saud played some brilliant counterattacking cricket after going in at 40 for three [38 for three] and it gave us a good stand.
“Shadab and I were looking to take the innings deep and the plan was to keep building the partnership till the 45th, 46th over and then finish on an attacking note. Unfortunately, we could not provide that finishing but we were able to get a good total for the team.”
After that 27th over by Haris, Pakistan had a tight grip on the match, but de Leede continued to provide resistance. He was finally undone, thanks to a scorcher from Nawaz that had everything that a left-arm orthodox can imagine.
“It is a dream ball of any left-arm orthodox to bring the ball in with drift and then turn it away,” Nawaz, who finished with figures of one for 31 from seven overs, said. “Bas de Leede is a good all-rounder and he was looking good at that time. His wicket was crucial.”
Nawaz also shares the notion that the bowlers will need to be disciplined here in India to get rewards in conditions which are largely tilted towards the batters, but he feels that the spinners will have a role to play as the tournament goes on.
“Most of the venues in India are more batting conducive, but the pitches will offer more turn as the tournament will progress,” he said. “Boundaries are a bit smaller here which is why it is tough here for the bowlers, but we have tried to adjust according to the conditions … I have gotten confidence from bowling in the last match and I want to build on it so I can deliver my best according to the team’s requirements.”
Though Pakistan enjoy an impeccable record against Sri Lanka in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup since 1975 defeating them on all seven occasions, the Islanders have recently outdone them. They lost a last-ball thriller in Colombo in the One-Day iteration of the Asia Cup last month and faced back-to-back defeats in the tournament’s T20 edition last year, with the last of the two matches being the final.
Nawaz, however, suggested that the past results would have no bearing when the two sides meet tomorrow. “They have won important matches against us in the last one year in white-ball cricket, but that is in the past and it should not affect us. We will go in with ‘new game, new day’ and positive mindset on Tuesday.”
By our correspondent