Pakistan v Canada: Mohammad Rizwan guides side to seven-wicket T20 World Cup win

After two miserable defeats against USA and India, Babar Azam's team finally register victory at tournament

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Finally, some respite for Pakistan. After two of the sorriest days in the country’s cricket history, they are on the board at the T20 World Cup.

Their seven-wicket win over Canada in New York was not pretty. Few matches at the pop-up ground in Long Island have been. But they will take an ugly win given everything that has been going on.

They took two points from a game at the third time of asking. Now they will be in the odd situation of having to watch on Wednesday and hope their great rivals India can do them a favour when they play USA at the same ground.

In the two days between this match and their implosion against India last time out, Pakistan’s players had been widely lampooned. Their performances in the first two games were described as pathetic.

The team was said to be riven by cliques, with some players described as “cancers” in the dressing room. Shaheen Afridi was criticised for celebrating his own batting subsequent to the loss against USA on opening night.

Former players called for a drastic overhaul, demanded seven or eight new players. Pictures of an Azam Khan doppelganger tucking into some fast food went viral online. It was savage stuff.

If the players felt wrung out by it all, then they showed it at the start. On commentary ahead of the first ball, Wasim Akram said the one crime a bowler could possibly commit on an uneven wicket like the one at Nassau County was to over-pitch. Anywhere else, and the iffy facilities would help the bowlers.

And yet neither of the first two deliveries by Shaheen Afridi – once lauded as the fastest of fast starters – landed. The first swung benevolently into the pads of Aaron Johnson, who clipped it straight to the midwicket boundary for four.

The next was at least straighter, but again Johnson got enough on it to bunt the ball straight back down for another four.

What Pakistan could have done without was an obstinate opponent powerful enough to pepper the boundary. In the form of Johnson, they found exactly that.

The broad-shouldered opener put up some doughty resistance at the top of the order. He hit four sixes, as well as two more fours, in an innings of 52 from 44.

The pity for Canada, as well as neutrals looking for another upset, was that no one else in red managed to get the pace of the pitch as Johnson did.

He was the only one of them whose strike rate (Johnson scored at 118.18) was better than a run a ball, and the only one of the top six who managed double figures.

Even though they mustered just 106-7 from their 20 overs, there was still a feeling an upset was possible. The pitch was no easier that it had been previously in the tournament.

A total of just seven runs more had been defended there a day earlier when South Africa beat Bangladesh. And Pakistan’s batters were reeling from all the derision that had been heaped on them so far.

Pakistan had rejigged their batting line up for this game. Saim Ayub, the young PSL star, came in for Iftikhar Ahmed. Such faith was shown in him that he was handed an opening berth alongside Mohammed Rizwan, with Babar Azam dropping down to No 3.

Even the new whizzkid struggled to adapt, though. He made six from 12 balls before chipping a catch behind to wicketkeeper Shreyas Movva off Dilon Heyliger. The same combination later accounted for Babar, after he had made 33.

They needed 17.3 overs to get to victory, with Rizwan ending unbeaten on 53. The fact it was a struggle is endorsed by the fact it was the highest successful run chase at this ground so far.

It means Pakistan are still alive in the tournament, requiring a win against Ireland in their final pool match and hoping other results go their way.

“You never know,” said Mohammed Amir, who was the player-of-the-match award for his return of 2-13 from four overs. “One more win and who knows.”

Updated: June 12, 2024, 5:41 AM