SYDNEY: Pakistani mentor Matthew Hayden supports struggling captain Babar Azam to produce something special in the Round of 16 of the Twenty20 World Cup, starting with Wednesday’s semi-final against New Zealand.
Fly-half Babar put on a remarkable first innings against Bangladesh in their final group game on Sunday as Pakistan progressed to the semi-finals thanks to a surprise Netherlands defeat of South Africa.
The 25 runs Babar scored at Adelaide Oval came after just 14 in his previous four tournament games and former Australian fly-half Hayden believed an even bigger inning was on the cards on Wednesday.
“Don’t be at all surprised if you see fireworks, because very special players don’t stay on the ground long,” Hayden told reporters.
“Babar has been through some adversity but that will only make him a better player… you can’t keep hitting hundreds and fifties and strike rates over 140, there has to be a lull.
“As with weather, when there is a lull there is often a storm that follows. So watch out the rest of the world because I think you are about to see something very special.”
With Babar and his longtime opening partner Mohammad Rizwan both battling for runs, Hayden said he was impressed with how Pakistan’s middle order stood.
He particularly picked Mohammad Haris, who came into the Pakistan squad as a replacement for a mid-tournament injury and scored 59 runs in two sets.
“One of the things about this type of tournament is that pretty much the whole cricketing community is tired to some degree,” Hayden added.
“So to have a young and fresh face with nothing to lose, nothing really to gain, but just playing with great freedom was a wonderful expression for him personally but also for the Pakistan team.”
Hayden believed the added prospect of pacemakers Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Wasim and Haris Rauf firing on the Sydney cricket ground gave Pakistan every chance of advancing to the final, despite their poor start to the tournament.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride but I wouldn’t want it any other way because at the last World Cup we went to the semi-finals unbeaten and Australia beat us,” Hayden said. .
“I really believe we haven’t played our best game yet, which is a huge threat to the opponents.
“The way the middle order got into the plate was great and those fast bowlers, man, there’s four of them and they’re coming in at a blistering pace.”

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