T20 World Cup: Pakistan look for quick turnaround after India heartbreak

Babar Azam's team face Zimbabwe in Perth on Thursday

Pakistan will look to bounce back in the T20 World Cup against Zimbabwe. AFP
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Pakistan will still be recovering from the shock of their T20 World Cup opener against India when they face Zimbabwe in Perth on Thursday.

Babar Azam's team contrived to surrender a winning position against India in Melbourne on Sunday, with Virat Kohli's epic unbeaten 82 snatching a last-ball win in what is regarded as one of the greatest T20 innings ever played.

There, Pakistan were defending 48 runs from 18 balls but ended up on the losing side in front of more than 90,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

That missed opportunity will be in the minds of Pakistan's players when they take on the unheralded Zimbabweans. However, given the state of affairs in the World Cup so far, they will need to be on their toes.

Weather has already played a huge part in the opening stages of the tournament. South Africa's match against Zimbabwe and New Zealand's clash against Afghanistan was washed out, forcing teams to share points. Also, Ireland stunned England on Wednesday in a rain-curtailed match, ruining every pre-tournament calculation.

That means teams not only have to keep one eye on the weather, but also must prepare for shortened games. With little room for error, Pakistan will be looking for a more clinical performance against Zimbabwe following their Melbourne heartbreak.

"The hurt remains after losing such a big match. We were heart-broken," said middle-order batsman Iftikhar Ahmed, who hit 51 in Pakistan's loss against India.

Ahmed said that morale remained high and praised skipper Babar Azam for his handling of the team in the aftermath of the India loss. A video of Azam's pep talk to his side went viral.

"We have to learn from our mistakes. Don't fall, the tournament has just begun. We have lost as a team and will win as a team," Azam said in the video.

"The way Babar and the management supported the players, it was good. Babar and coaches told us that 'it was not our last game, everybody put in the effort'," Iftikhar said on Wednesday. "So our morale is high."

Ahmed said no team can be taken lightly in the 20-over format.

"Zimbabwe is an international team and we have to play strong against them like any other team," said the 32-year-old. "Important to play well and keep up the confidence. The players are hungry to perform."

While spinner Mohammad Nawaz drew the ire of fans after conceding 16 runs in the final over against India, pace spearhead Haris Rauf also faced scrutiny as he was hit for two successive sixes by Kohli in a game-changing moment at the end of the 19th over.

However, Ahmed said the pacer had bowled admirably until then and will recover from the setback quickly.

"The Australian pitches are fast and bouncy and we have prepared for that," said Ahmed. "Haris is our main strike bowler and we expect him to bowl better here and win it for Pakistan."

Pakistan will have a few concerns going into the match on Thursday. Their lower middle order of Shadab Khan, Haider Ali, Nawaz and Asif Ali collapsed within a couple of overs to hand the initiative back to India. Also, returning pace ace Shaheen Afridi was down on speed and was negotiated expertly by the Indian batsmen.

Pakistan could bring in top-order batsman Fakhar Zaman, subject to fitness, and pacer Mohammad Wasim Jr. There is no serious threat of rain affecting the match, according to forecasts.

Updated: October 26, 2022, 11:25 AM