Twice in three months did Pakistan come close to winning a major title – first the Asia Cup and just yesterday the T20 World Cup – but on both occasions Babar Azam and Co. fell short, stumbling at the final hurdle.
Twice in three months did Pakistan come close to winning a major title – first the Asia Cup and just yesterday the T20 World Cup – but on both occasions Babar Azam and Co. fell short, stumbling at the final hurdle. In September, Pakistan reached the final of the Asia Cup only to lose to Sri Lanka and two months later, the team rose from the ashes to make it to the final of the World Cup, where England bested them en route to achieving their second T20 World Cup crown. The disappointment of not finishing well is something Babar Azam rued after losing to England by five wickets at the MCG, and although the Pakistan captain lauded the effort put in by the team, he did get a little emotional talking about his team failing to get over the line.
“Definitely, dukh hua hai (we are sad). It hurts when you can’t finish it off in a final, of course. We’re very proud to play for Pakistan and make the final. But it hurts when you can’t finish it off. We couldn’t finish it off in the Asia Cup either, and that does sting. This was a stressful week because we didn’t know we were in or out. But the way we grabbed our opportunity and played our best cricket in four matches in a row, our team deserves credit,” Babar said during the post-match press conference.
After England captain Jos Buttler opted to field, Pakistan’s batters just couldn’t get going. Babar and Mohammad Rizwan, both of whom had scored terrific half-centuries in the semifinal against New Zealand, once again appeared clunky and failed to gain steam in the Powerplay. Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals with England piling pressure through leg-spinner Adil Rashid and left-arm quick Sam Curran, who combined to pick up five wickets. Eventually, Pakistan could only muster 137/8, a total that was overhauled rather comfortably in the end by Ben Stokes.
“The ball was seaming early on. We wanted to get 45-50 runs in the powerplay but we lost a few wickets. In 11 overs, we were around 85 , but the back-to-back wickets that fell in the middle order meant we lost momentum. Especially after Shadab and Shan’s partnership ending with both getting out soon after each other like they did,” Babar added.
“Our middle-order dot-ball ratio was a bit too high because we were in a different situation, trying to build a partnership. We couldn’t do that, and whenever a wicket falls, it takes the new batter 2-3 balls to settle down. That put us on the back foot as a batting unit because we couldn’t finish as we wanted.”
Still, Pakistan did not throw in the towel. They put England pressure by reducing them to 85/4 with Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf bowling full throttle and beating the outside edges on countless occasions. But unfortunately, luck ran out on Pakistan as Shaheen Afridi injured himself while taking a catch. Shaheen could not complete his remaining two overs, which were then completed by Iftikhar Ahmed. The off-spinner gave away 10 runs off two balls and that shifted the momentum in England’s favour, who then launched from there with Moeen Ali and Stokes relieving the pressure off themselves with a couple of run-filled over.
“The way we fought back and took the game to the final over, you’re left to wonder. Maybe if Shaheen had bowled, things might have been different. But credit to England’s bowling. We were trying to build a partnership, but losing back-to-back wickets puts pressure on you. That pressure remains on you till the 20th over. We were 20 runs or so short with the bat, even though we came back with the ball. After Shaheen’s injury, the game shifted to England’s side,” mentioned Babar.