Sarfraz’s sweeping powers steal the show for Pakistan in first T20

His glides through the point region are surprisingly elegant, but it is his stroke play between mid-on and midwicket that speaks most resoundingly of his quality and timing.
Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed can go down on one knee and sweep fast bowlers effortlessly as he did in Dubai yesterday. Aamir Qureshi / AFP
Pakistan’s Sarfraz Ahmed can go down on one knee and sweep fast bowlers effortlessly as he did in Dubai yesterday. Aamir Qureshi / AFP

DUBAI // Is there a crazier, more inadvisable shot in world cricket currently than the sweep Sarfraz Ahmed plays off fast bowlers? The bar, remember, is set pretty high, what with Dilscoops, the reverse-reverse sweep, the helicopter shot and, of course, the switch-hit.

But none of them feel quite as crazy as getting down on one knee to a fast bowler and sweeping him through square leg for four. It is not unique to Sarfraz, of course. It is a shot that one of his predecessors, and current team manager, Moin Khan used to play pretty well.

Something about it, in fact, is so Karachi, the city from which they both hail – simultaneously fearless, stupid and annoying.

Sarfraz has actually been Pakistan’s form batsman across all formats this year and it was his unbeaten 76 – his first Twenty20 fifty and a considerable improvement on his previous format best of five – last night in Dubai that set up Pakistan’s seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the first T20.

It took a bouncer from debutante Matt Henry in the fifth over of Pakistan’s chase to jump-start his innings.

He was seven off 15 deliveries when the bouncer sailed high over his head.

It should have been a wide but was not given. Incensed and unafraid to let the square leg umpire know it, Sarfraz slogged the next ball over wide mid-on for four.

But it was the next shot that got him going.

Henry is genuinely quick, yet down Sarfraz went and swept him for six. It was not a scoop or a paddle, but a proper sweep.

He played it again several times, perhaps not as devastatingly, but just as audaciously.

It is not even his best shot.

His glides through the point region are surprisingly elegant, but it is his stroke play between mid-on and midwicket that speaks most resoundingly of his quality and timing.

There were a few of those along the way, including one emphatic maximum over wide mid-on, before Umar Akmal – the man Sarfraz displaced as the T20 wicketkeeper – came on and took over the show.

It was Akmal’s six that ultimately sealed a comfortable win. A more testing target might have made for a more interesting examination.

But New Zealand were effectively done in during the first few overs of being asked to bat by Shahid Afridi. On a slippery wicket, a trio of slippery fast bowlers took a wicket each in the first three overs to reduce the tourists to 15 for three as the fourth over began.

In truth, the contrasting threats of Anwar Ali, Sohail Tanvir and Mohammad Irfan created the wickets, rather than the batting gifting it. Corey Anderson threatened to bludgeon New Zealand to a bigger total, with some monstrous hitting taking him to a career-best.

In a 51-run partnership with Luke Ronchi, New Zealand recovered well, but Anderson went just when he should not have – albeit because of an excellent boundary catch – and Pakistan soon reined them back in.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 5, 2014 04:00 AM

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