Afridi shows united front
Pakistan ended up going further than expected at the World Twenty20 when they lost in their semi-final against Australia, but Shahid Afridi, the captain, reckons they won a major victory in restoring team unity. And the team are relishing the prospect of facing the Aussies again in two Twenty20s and two Tests in England in July.
Pakistan went to the Caribbean defending their T20 title in their first tournament since seven players, including Afridi, were sanctioned in March after their disastrous tour of Australia. Four players were banned for varying periods while the other three were fined - Afridi and the Akmal brothers, Kamran and Umar, who all made the World T20 team. Pakistan lost a group match to Australia then lost consecutive matches against England and New Zealand in the Super Eight stage before beating South Africa to scrape into the semi-finals on better run-rate.
Afridi, on arriving home in Karachi yesterday, said he had been surprised the team had made it that far after their two defeats in the Super Eights. "I was not expecting that we will perform so good against South Africa and Australia especially after we dropped too many catches against England and lost narrowly [by one run] to New Zealand," he said. "So I think overall I am quite satisfied with the team's performance and importantly we played as a unit."
Afridi said losing the thrilling semi-final to Australia stung more than if they had lost the final. Australia came from nowhere to reach their 192-run target at St Lucia last Friday. Michael Hussey hit three sixes and a four in the last over off Saeed Ajmal to engineer Australia's escape. Pakistan conceded 53 runs off the last 16 balls. "Had I won that match [against Australia] and lost the final I would not have been disappointed," said Afridi .
"The situation was not looking like we were going to lose. We had our two best bowlers bowling the last two overs, but I must say the Australians played very well." Ajmal bowled the crucial last over in the game against South Africa and Afridi said he backed his off-spinner against Australia, too. "It was a big match for Ajmal, he was under pressure," Afridi said. "[But] he also bowled the 20th over against South Africa and moreover he was also bowling from his favourite end against Australia."
Ajmal said he hoped to face Hussey again when the teams meet in England. "I hope I will have another go at him when we meet in two months' time," Ajmal said. Pakistan will be playing their "home" series against Australia in England as foreign teams have refused to tour Pakistan because of security concerns. * AP
Published: May 20, 2010 04:00 AM