The Pakistan cricketers and the support staff were glued to their television screens at the team hotel on Sunday morning, watching the T20 World Cup fixture between South Africa and The Netherlands.
They had to reach the Adelaide Oval by noon, but after the Dutch team got off to a flying start, the players ensured that they kept a tab on the game even after reaching the venue. After all, the outcome of that game would have had a direct impact on Pakistan’s semifinal chances.
And by the afternoon as The Netherlands team knocked South Africa out of the tournament, the Pakistan players were excited.
Still about an hour to go for its last game against Bangladesh, the team knew that it had a simple equation: win the game and join India as the second team from Group 2 in the last-four stage.
“Credit to the Netherlands, we needed such a result to come back. We are happy that they won. But we focused on our game. These results are not in our hands,” Shaheen Shah Afridi said after guiding his team to a five-wicket win against Bangladesh and storming into the semifinals.
Pakistan was under pressure after losing two league games against India and Zimbabwe, but The Netherlands helped the team make it to the knockouts, quite unexpectedly. And, Shaheen thanked the fans for supporting the team.
“I think it’s because of the fans that we reached the semifinals. Their prayers helped us. I also think that our top cricketers should support us in tough times. Team needs support when they lose,” he said.
Shaheen troubled Bangladesh, with his career-best figures of four for 22, and the pacer admitted that it was not easy to come back from injury. He missed out on the Asia Cup and was out of action for about three months, before making it to the Pakistan squad for the T20 World Cup.
“It is not easy to come back from such an injury. I can only give my 100 percent on the field and I am trying. This injury needs to be given time, I think I came in early as it is a World Cup and the team needs me,” Shaheen said.
“I am not bowling at 150 kmph like Haris. Even before, I’ve bowled at 135-140kmph. I felt a pinch during the run-up but now I’m feeling much better,” he said. Staying away from the game with an injury affected his mind, but self belief helped him overcome the odds.
Talking about the pitch at the Adelaide Oval, Shaheen said, “I think the wicket was tricky, not easy to play your shots. A spinner bowling in the right areas was not easy to hit. Reverse was also happening, so it was not easy on this wicket to hit from the word go. We could have done better but still played good cricket…”
The victories against South Africa and Zimbabwe have helped in boosting morale. “The credit goes to the whole team. We played good cricket. The games we lost were decided on the last ball, but still we played good cricket. We didn’t get the results in our favour, but a good team never falls after a loss. The captain plays a big role to lift the team and support us. We are backing each other and as a result we have won here…”
After two early defeats, not many expected Pakistan to come so far. But at the Adelaide Oval in front of 12,741 spectators, the Men in Green put up a brave show, giving the fans a chance to chant ‘ Dil, Dil Pakistan’.
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