By Sarfaraz Ahmed (Pakistan cricket captain)
When we embarked on our World Cup campaign, someone reminded me it was not about how you start, but how you finish. If you take that entirely in the context of yesterday’s match against England, we started solidly with Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq putting on 82 runs for the first wicket after we were put into bat. And then, we finished clinically with Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz and Mohamamd Amir producing seven of the nine wicket-taking deliveries Azhar Mahmood had hoped for in his pre-match media conference.
Our performance against the West Indies was unacceptable. We played well below our potential and, therefore, it was important we bounced back forcefully to restore not only our confidence but also that of our fans and supporters. Apart from the result, I am sure our fan club will be pleased with our body language at Trent Bridge yesterday.
I once again reiterate this young side, whose average age is around 24, is as proud and honoured to represent the country at the World Cup as any Pakistan team of yesteryears. This side, like its predecessors, has the motivation, hunger, desire, resolve and self-belief to give its very best every time the boys wear Pakistan colours. That’s our philosophy, which is reflected in our tagline#WeHaveWeWill.
We arrived at Trent Bridge on Monday oozing with confidence. We had the self-belief that we can beat England. The 4-0 scoreline in the bilateral series in the lead up to the World Cup may have reflected a one-sided affair, but we knew the reality was different.
In the four completed ODIs, we had posted scores of 361 for seven, 358 for nine, 340 for seven and 297. So, batting was not the concern. All we needed to do yesterday was to bowl and field better, and capture the key moments, which we did with success. The result is a 14-run victory.
Before the match, our message to the boys was quite clear: play with controlled aggression and fight till the last ball. After we were put into bat, we agreed that we will try to keep wickets intact so that we can launch an assault in the later stages. We managed 69 runs in the first Powerplay and then Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez built on that for us to achieve a challenging total.
It was a perfect team effort. All the players did well and deserve appreciation. I stress on this because this was a day match and it was important that our openers gave us the right kind of platform. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq set the cornerstone of that innings. They deserve all the credit.
Hafeez showed there is no substitute to experience. He not only controlled and paced his innings to perfection, he rotated the strike with Babar and punished the loose deliveries. It is so pleasing to see Babar develop into one of the world’s best, and I am sure the time he spent with Hafeez out in the middle would have given him more confidence and knowledge about the art of batting in big matches.
Hafeez not only enabled us to reach a total we were convinced we could defend, he also claimed the important wicket of Eoin Morgan with a peach of a delivery. If Hafeez maintains this form and Babar continues to show his flair to build on the solid start provided by the openers, this Pakistan team will go a long way in the tournament.
We brought in experienced Shoaib Malik and Asif Ali for the game. The prime reason of these changes was to put on a good total because the kind of wickets used in this World Cup demand big totals.
Once we managed a good total, we knew we could apply pressure on England, which we did successfully.
I used Shadab Khan in the first over and he repaid the confidence by dismissing Jason Roy. Hats off to Shadab who accepted the challenge of taking the new ball. He had not opened the bowling before in an ODI, but then this is the beauty of this team. Players are willing to take up the challenge and do anything that can help the team’s cause.
Joe Root benefitted from a dropped catch, but we did not read too much into it because this is part and parcel of the game. We just wanted to take wickets, and although Root and Jos Buttler put up a good partnership, we knew one wicket would change the complexion of the game.
When Root got out, we knew we were back in the game. The belief strengthened once we dismissed Buttler too.
All the frontline bowlers bowled well and they were well supported by the combination of Shoaib Malik and Hafeez, who between them returned impressive figures of 10-0-53-2 on the comparatively smaller ground.
Wahab and Amir showed the intensity and the determination to take wickets, the main reason why they were included in the World Cup squad in the first place. Hasan Ali was equally impressive although his final figures don’t do justice to how well he bowled. Shadab, as always, was a beauty.
I am sure our fans back home and those who are following us here in England will celebrate Eid in a happy mood. On behalf of the whole team may I wish Eid Mubarak to all our fans. I hope people will keep faith in us and we promise that we will do our best to keep the smiles on their faces and march on towards our aim, which is to win the World Cup.
What next? We must put the match against England behind us - like the one against the West Indies - and use it only as an inspiration and motivation for the upcoming matches. Our next game is against Sri Lanka in Bristol on Friday and we will try to keep the momentum going. This will again be a 10:30 start.