‘Welcome to Pakistan cricket’ – Rollercoaster ride revives dreams of T20 World Cup glory

Matthew Hayden says ‘232 million people can’t be wrong’ after their prayers were answered by qualification for semi-final against New Zealand

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A year ago in Dubai, Pakistan appeared to be in the process of sweeping all before them on their way to inevitable T20 World Cup glory.

They had routed India. They had won five from five in pool play. Then, with a few swishes of Matthew Wade’s bat, they were sunk, their dreams dashed.

Such is the unpredictability of T20 cricket. Instead, unheralded Australia and New Zealand played out a final in front of just a handful of their own compatriots, and with not one member of either country’s own written press in attendance.

This time around it has been New Zealand who have made all the running in the competition in Australia.

Like Pakistan a year ago, they, too, started out their campaign with a crushing win over their own local rivals, and have generally been the most formidable side in the event since.

Down to the last four, they are faced with a Pakistan side who only sneaked into the semi-finals through the back door after an unforeseen turn of events on the final day of pool play.

All of which is just about how Pakistan like it.

“Shadab [Khan] actually said something very significant in the dugout the other day when we were playing our last match, when he said, ‘Welcome to Pakistan cricket’,” Matthew Hayden, their batting consultant, said.

“Meaning that on any given day, anything can happen. And on that particular day, when Netherlands beat South Africa, it was a significant moment for us in the tournament and a very, very significant moment for the team in general.

“[There were] lots of prayers as Pakistan woke up to see that result, and 232 million people can't be wrong.

“As a result of that, I feel that there was very much an uplifting tempo in our group, which made that match against Bangladesh almost a certainty for Pakistan.

“It was an incredible experience. It's been a roller coaster ride, but a ride that I wouldn't have it any other way because the last World Cup that we went into were undefeated and Australia pipped us in the semi-final.”

What happened a year ago does not come into the thinking of opposition captain Kane Williamson.

The New Zealand batter does not even regard the series between the two sides which immediately preceded this tournament as having any bearing on Wednesday’s meeting in Sydney.

Williamson also paid little heed to the indifferent form of Pakistan’s openers, Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan, reasoning that scoring has been tough at the top of the order.

“They're a strong side,” Williamson said. “A very well-balanced side. In this format, it can be fickle. You're certainly trying to take the risks required you need to move your team forward.

“And we know the quality they have, the Pakistan team from No 1 right down the order. For us, it's about focusing on our cricket and what we want to do.”

Hayden reckons Pakistan will be better for the experience of their semi-final heartbreak in the UAE last year, even if much of the personnel is different now.

“We all understand that big games are about handling pressure and handling adversity and there's huge expectations and challenges,” Hayden said.

“One of the things I've always admired about Pakistan cricket is their ability to turn up in big moments.

“There is a big moment ahead of us tomorrow. It is very, very special to be a part of it.

“I've seen great changes, and this side has continued to challenge itself from the last World Cup. We got on the wrong side of the results in the Asia Cup [in September in the UAE].

“But still that's a completely different tournament. The way we've prepared is excellent. The way that the middle order in particular from a batting stance has stepped up to the plate has been excellent.”

Updated: November 08, 2022, 7:06 AM