Pakistan vs Namibia, 31st Match, Group 2 (N), Abu Dhabi, Nov 2 2021
Pakistan’s spectacular journey
Eight days ago, Pakistan had to face games against India, New Zealand and Afghanistan to kick off the tournament with interim head coaches, and batting and bowling consultants with less consulting experience. There were plenty of joke going around about Pakistan being eliminated by the time these games were done, but it almost rang too true to be amusing.
Eight days on, India have been thrashed by ten wickets and New Zealand and Afghanistan seen off with the sort of ruthless efficiency characteristic of big winners. With qualification to the semi-finals virtually guaranteed, Pakistan can treat the upcoming games against Namibia and Scotland almost like bonus warm-up matches, the sort of luxury no Pakistan team would dream of having in at this stage of a World Cup.
Pakistan, though, will be the first to recognise the danger of losing momentum just as quickly as they’ve found themselves in it, so there’s little chance of a drop-off in intensity against Namibia. It might be an opportunity to rest one or two of the assets they want sharp for the semi-finals.
Shaheen Afridi is perhaps the most important candidate. It might also be the time to test their bench strength, with Mohammad Nawaz and Haider Ali waiting in the wings should they be required. But now that Pakistan seem to have found back the formula to win T20 games once more.
It might not ultimately matter which individual players line up against Namibia. It’s about the team, not individual superstars. How often, indeed, do you say that about Pakistan?
Don’t write off Namibia though
Namibia, meanwhile, aren’t there to be anyone’s easy points. Very much still in the tournament and in contention for the semi-finals, Gerhard Erasmus’ side have played an amazing brand of T20 cricket that has seen them come further this tournament than most would have expected. They have a quality fast bowler in Ruben Trumpelmann, a bunch of useful spinners, a solid-enough top order, and a superstar in David Wiese.
Their successes haven’t been one-man shows; several of these players have stood up at various times to help them through the first round and then beat Scotland in the group. If they can catch Pakistan in a moment of trouble, they might just have the potential to put them under pressure, and in the past, Pakistan under pressure have found themselves doing some strange things.
Fantasy Team Tips
Captain: Babar Azam
He has scored 296 runs in his last six games in Abu Dhabi at a stunning average of 59.20 and four 50+ scores.Talk about being reliable.
Vice-captain: Shaheen Shah Afridi
Abu Dhabi has seen some of Afridi’s best performances as he has picked up 17 wickets in 12 games at a strike rate of 16.24.
What they said
“You don’t have a lot of time to harp on it [the defeat against Afghanistan], you need to reassess quickly, you need to reset. So the last 24 hours was a matter of just trying to relax because we know how big tomorrow is and what we’re going to face. It’s important that we take the learnings from yesterday and improve on those points. Tomorrow is going to be a great experience for the players but we need to be 20% better.” – Namibia Head Coach
“When you’re playing a team game, it’s not necessary that all 11 have to perform. In my entire career, I’ve never seen something like this happen. Hasan Ali has the support – not only from me but the entire team, the management and the captain.” – Shoaib Malik