MANCHESTER: Veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez praised teenage debutant Haider Ali’s composure after the pair combined to set up Pakistan’s five-run victory over England in their tour-ending third Twenty20 International at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
It was Pakistan’s first victory in 66 days of being in a bio-secure bubble in England amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and meant they squared this three-match series at 1-1 after a 1-0 loss in last month’s three-Test series.
Hafeez, the 39-year-old former captain, made 86 not out and Haider 54 in Pakistan’s 190-4 as the duo added exactly 100 after coming together at 32-2.
Hafeez’s knock followed his 69 in England’s five-wicket win at Old Trafford on Sunday and was his fourth fifty in his last five T20 international innings.
Haider came in at 2-1 after opener Fakhar Zaman was out for one but demonstrated a maturity well beyond his years during a 28-ball fifty featuring five fours and two sixes.
“He was good under pressure and just expressed himself,” said Hafeez of the 20-year-old youngster in a post-match interview with Sky Sports. “I was just trying to back him every time, tell him ‘you are playing well, continue like that’ It is great to see youngsters coming from our system and performing well.”
Australia head coach Justin Langer also praised Haider.
“He’s fantastic,” said Langer during a conference call on Wednesday in Southampton, where Australia begin a three-match Twenty20 series against England from Friday. “Pakistan as we’ve always known, they are like a sleeping giant. They’ve got so much talent, it’s like India, it’s exciting to watch.”
Asked if he had ever been involved in a partnership featuring a similar age gap like Hafeez and Haider, former Australia opening batsman Langer replied: “My experience of that was with Shaun Marsh.
“I’ve known him since he was born. Geoff Marsh [Shaun’s father] and Michelle, they are great friends of mine. Geoff was my first captain.
“We played together when he was 17 or 18 for Western Australia. I understand that experience for the Pakistanis last night. It’s great to see these young kids come in and play.
“He [Haider] hit a six off his second ball in international cricket — it’s exciting to watch. “
Pakistan captain Babar Azam was elated with the result which was confirmed when veteran paceman Wahab Riaz — in for the injured Mohammad Amir — ran out Chris Jordan and then caught and bowled Moeen Ali for 61 in the penultimate over.
England still needed 12 off two balls when Tom Curran hit a six. But Curran could not repeat the shot when paceman Haris Rauf bowled a last-ball yorker.
“We had a plan and achieved a total and then bowled very well,” said Babar, the world’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman, who was out for 21 on Tuesday.
“Moeen played a superb knock but our bowlers did well to win the match,” added Babar, who will remain in England to play for Somerset in the Twenty20 Blast.
Turning to the final over, Babar said: “I told the bowler [Haris] to bowl yorkers. One ball he bowled a really bad ball [the one hit for six by Curran] but that is part of the game!”
England captain Eoin Morgan was pleased by Moeen’s return to form after the left-handed batsman had managed just 10 runs in his previous four white-ball international innings.
“Moeen is a joy to watch, very elegant,” said Morgan. “For him to come out and almost be the cornerstone at the back-end of a victory was great.” Moeen, meanwhile, Morgan for helping him returned to form and felt he ‘let the team down’ during his run drought.
“A lot of credit should go to Eoin Morgan,” Moeen said. “He’s given me the responsibility in terms of being the vice-captain and doing team talks here and there. To get that backing from the captain… it’s one of the reasons he’s the best captain I’ve had.”
Moeen, who bowled Fakhar Zaman with his first-ball of off-spin on Tuesday, added of Morgan: “He gives me a lot of confidence. I haven’t played well for a good period of time now and for my captain to think highly of me, for me that means a lot.
“He came up to me and said ‘Would you like to give the team-talk?’ It makes me feel responsible and a big part of the team. I have to back what I say as well, so I can’t give the boys inspiration if I can’t do it myself. It makes me feel me quite special among the boys and a big part of this team.”
Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2020