T20 World Cup: Pakistan will be hard to beat in Melbourne

Pakistan fans are optimistic and are hoping it would be a repeat of the 1992 final played at the same ground 30 years ago

By Anis Sajan

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Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi during a practice session. — PCB Twitter
Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi during a practice session. — PCB Twitter

Published: Sat 12 Nov 2022, 10:11 PM

Three weeks ago before the India Pakistan game, rain was forecast and all the fans were hoping that the rain stayed away and they get a full game. And when Pakistan brushed aside New Zealand in the first semifinals, the fans were just one game away from seeing another India-Pakistan blockbuster, that too a final. But Jos Buttler and England had other ideas and they spoiled India’s party and gave them a knockout punch from which the Indian fans are yet to come to terms with.

And here we are for the big finale between powerhouses England against an unpredictable Pakistan, who till last Sunday, were not even sure to make it the semifinals. Pakistan fans are optimistic and are hoping it would be a repeat of the 1992 final played at the same Melbourne Cricket Ground 30 years ago.

And fans believe that Pakistan captain Babar Azam can do the same as the charismatic Imran Khan, who led the cornered tigers to victory in the 50-over World Cup in 1992. But this is a different format where England will do their best and make sure it is not a repeat of what happened in 1992.

Everyone knows that this match is against England’s fearless and attacking batting line-up against the world’s bowling attack of Pakistan. Pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi is back to his best after being below average as he was coming back from an injury. And backed by young Naseem Shah, who clocks almost 145 and Haris Rauf, who has the experience of playing in Australian conditions because of Big Bash, along with Pakistan’s Mr T20 Shadab Khan, the attack looks very strong.

Pakistan's Shadab Khan (right) with Anis Sajan.
Pakistan's Shadab Khan (right) with Anis Sajan.

Shadab can do everything except flying and, who knows, if required, he might even do that to take Pakistan across the line for their second T20 title.

Mind you, England don't play leg spin well and Shadab has all the tricks and is an attacking bowler who has picked 10 wickets in six games at an average of 14.50 and an economy of just 6.59, bowling 22 overs in this tournament.

England, who hammered India in the semifinal, did not have the threat of facing a leg spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal, will have no such leverage against Pakistan as Shadab will be the player they will be wary of more, apart from their pacers.

England are known to come hard and play that brand of fearless cricket, irrespective of the situation. But it is a World Cup final and England had come close to winning it in 2016 until West Indian Carlos Brathwaite took the game away from them, hammering fours sixes off Ben Stokes in the final over. And, in 2021, they were shocked by Daryl Mitchell of New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.

Jos the boss will definitely have that in his mind and would not like to let this opportunity slip third time around. It needs to be seen how they take on the Pakistan bowlers when they bat, whether they are setting a target or chasing one. England also know this Pakistan team are now at its most dangerous and hard to beat as they don't fear anything.

So, one team which plays fearless cricket and the other which does not fear anything. Who will win the battle at the G? I will leave it for the readers to decide who will win the T20 World Cup on Sunday.

Anis Sajan is the vice-chairman of the Danube Group

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