SHARJAH: Pakistan skipper Babar Azam was one happy man after his team cruised into the Super Four stage of Asia Cup 2022 on the back of 155-run thrashing of Hong Kong. But Azam was more pleased with how Pakistan batted and finished the innings, calling the efforts 'outstanding'.
After being bowled out for 147 in 19.5 overs against India in their Asia Cup 2022 opener, sparkling knocks from Mohammad Rizwan (78 not out off 57 balls), Fakhar Zaman (53 off 41 balls) and Khushdil Shah (35 not out off 15 balls) carried Pakistan to a daunting 193/2 against Hong Kong. The pacers and spinners then combined to bundle out Hong Kong for just 38.
The comprehensive win also sets up another India-Pakistan showdown in the Super Four stage at Dubai on Sunday, exactly a week after their meeting in the first Group A match of the tournament.
"Very nice victory for us. Weren't able to get our shots away initially with the bat. The wicket was keeping low, but they way we batted and finished was outstanding. We want the top-orders batters to stay till the end, and the lower ones to bat around them. Becomes easier for those coming in. The way Naseem and Dahani have debuted, they have shown brilliant performances," said Babar in the post-match presentation ceremony.
His deputy, Mohammad Rizwan, who batted throughout the innings with an unbeaten 78, struggled to time the ball well. But he accelerated in the end to ensure Pakistan got a strong total.
"Most important for us to adjust to the conditions even if it is T20 cricket. Our effort is to forget the format and assess conditions. The ball was keeping low. We tried hitting, but it wasn't coming off. Then we charged down (play with straight bat), keeping in mind the ball was staying low."
Rizwan, who got Player of the Match award, remarked that being a senior player, he has to take responsibility especially with the middle-order not being much experienced. "I believe in hard work. Being a senior player, you have to take responsibility. You have to play according to the team, and there will be pressure. I request everyone to help the people of Pakistan, who are in trouble (due to the floods)."
Left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz, who took 3/7 and shared seven wickets with leg-spinner Shadab Khan (4/8), revealed the plan was to bowl on a stump-to-stump line on a slow Sharjah pitch in defence of 192.
"We had simple plans: just bowl wicket to wicket as per the pitch. We wanted to bowl on a good length since the ball was keeping low. We wanted to score 170-plus initially. After the good start from the fast bowlers, we just needed to keep it simple."
Zaman, whose 53 and 116-run stand with Rizwan signalled shifting of gears from Pakistan after a sluggish start, acknowledged that going slow in the first ten overs was a part of plan.
"We played according to the wicket. The plan was to keep wickets in hand in the first ten, and then hit in the last ten. That worked for us. There was a lot of heat and sweat as usual in the UAE. If you have wickets at the end here, you can put up a good score - like we did today."
Hong Kong skipper Nizakat Khan said he would carry the professionalism shown by both India and Pakistan on their way back home from the Asia Cup Group A days. "Lots of learnings from these two games. Credit to Pakistan for the way they played. Shot making, I must admit, was poor. We'll take back the professionalism of the two teams."