Pakistan aim to overwhelm England
Despite losing two warm-up games, Pakistan are aiming to start their campaign in style when they take on hosts England in their opening Group B match of the Twenty20 World Cup at the Oval.
Considering the ease with which archrivals India and South Africa bulldozed Pakistan in practise matches, Younis Khan and his charges may not require an extraordinary effort to beat ‘demoralised’ England who bowed out to minnows the Netherlands. The Dutch pulled off a major upset when they stunned England by four wickets in a pulsating opening contest of the event at Lord’s on Friday.
The Netherlands’ triumph was not only embarrassing for England but also the first instance of an associate country defeating a full member country in Twenty20 internationals. Pakistan last faced England in a Twenty20 international in 2006 in Bristol. Pakistan, under Inzamamul Haq, defeated England by 5 wickets.
Talking to reporters on Saturday, Younis said his team were well prepared to face their opponents. “We are geared up to give our best and qualify for the next stage,” he added. To a question, he replied that their twin losses in warm-up matches would count for little once the ‘real action’ starts on Sunday.
Runners-up in the inaugural edition two years ago, Pakistan suffered a 59-run defeat against Proteas in their first warm-up match, before India thrashed them by 9 wickets two days later. “What happened in those two matches will not matter once we open our campaign,” Younis maintained. “We may be slow starters but there is a lot of talent in the team that gives me confidence we will do well.
We tried a lot of new things and new combinations in the two matches to get the mix right for the tournament, so the results there don’t matter,” he stated.
Younis said there were no weaker teams in their group and other groups. “Look what the Netherlands did to England. In this shorter version of the game anything can happen. Outcome of a match changes in blink of an eye.” Pakistan are placed in Group B alongside England and the Netherlands.
Younis said they would have to be on their guard if they were to be among the two teams advancing to the Super-Eight. “England have the advantage of playing at home and we wont be taking the Dutch lightly.” Younis said his boys knew they had to be on their toes all the time.
He also expected the spinners to play an important role in the tournament. “Everyone thought that spinners would struggle in Twenty20 format. This has been proved wrong. It will seam a bit but the slow bowlers can go a long way in restricting the run-rate.”
To a query, Younis said they knew that England had acquired former Pakistan leggie Mushtaq Ahmed as its bowling coach. “But we are confident that our spinners Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik will do well against them.”
England still optimistic: Despite losing to the Dutch, England are still optimistic of qualifying for the Super-Eight. “Yes, it’s pretty hard to take, you call them the minnows but they outplayed us,” skipper Paul Collingwood told reporters. “When you get 160-odd on the board you think you’ve got enough, but they played with plenty freedom and belief, and they ran better than us between the wickets. The boys are devastated in the dressing-room, but we’ve got to bounce back, and play a hell of a lot better in our next game,” he said.
But England may not even get the opportunity to put this debacle behind them. The weather forecast for Sunday is of heavy rain shower, and a wash-out would mean their sorriest World Cup exit. Collingwood said as the hosts they had the fans behind them, and also the self-belief that they still could do well. “Twenty20 requires a little bit of luck, and we will need that, but on a serious note, if we start well and get some momentum, I think we will be there at the end.”
Collingwood was all praise for Pakistan. “Pakistan are obviously a very good side. They got to the final of the last Twenty20 World Cup, they’re very skilful and we’re going to have to be at our very, very best to beat that side but we can do it,” he maintained.