When Pakistan overcame West Indies by eight-wickets at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on Wednesday (February 26), people were calling it an “upset win”. However, having worked closely with the team over the last couple of years, I know that it was a performance (and result) that Pakistan have worked very hard to achieve over the last two years.
There has been a lot of emphasis on getting the little things right – fitness, fielding, running between the wickets and bowling to plans with subtle variations. In Pakistan’s opening game of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2020 all of those disciplines came together to help the team achieve a sensational win.
To start off, Pakistan bowled beautifully. They had clear plans and stuck to them. All the points that have been hammered into them came off: start and end your over well, bowl in partnerships with the other bowler and use subtle variations. To underline the first point further, of the 12 boundaries (eight fours and four sixes) Pakistan conceded through the innings, only two came off the first or last ball of an over. This, in stark contrast to their struggles through the series against England in Malaysia.
Diana Baig, the right-arm seamer, bowled particularly beautifully and the fielding backed it up. Her final over aside – in which she went for 13 runs – she bowled with great control and discipline getting the ball to swing late. Through her four over spell, Baig bowled as many as 14 dot balls (including the two wicket balls), conceding only six runs in her first spell of three overs.
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In the chase, the batting was measured and all the batters showed a clear understanding of “what is required right now.” Muneeba Ali and Javeria Khan were outstanding putting the bad balls away and ramping the short ball. Their approach showcased that they are prepared to take on the short ball and have put in the necessary work to do so. The opening pair put together a 58-run stand – Pakistan’s highest opening stand in a T20 World Cup – to lay the foundation for Pakistan. They took on the bowlers early, and motored between the wickets, steadily chipping away at the total and West Indies’ morale.
Once the openers were dismissed, the team’s two senior-most players, Nida Dar and Bismah Maroof, played very well to finish off the job in clinical fashion. They shared an unbeaten 50-run stand to seal an easy victory for Pakistan. It was a brilliant display of batting – wonderful to watch. For me, extremely satisfying.
A couple of years ago, in the 2018 ICC Women’s World T20, our fielding was an area we identified as something we needed to improve on. Also, because we are not as big in size as other teams, our fitness and running between the wickets was going to be important. We needed to keep rotating the strike – keep the scoreboard ticking in the middle of all those boundaries. We knew we had players like Nida Dar, Aliya Riaz and Iram Javed who could hit big sixes, but we also needed to rotate the strike. That’s where manoeuvring the field, understanding the bowlers’ plans and good awareness comes into play.
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Another thing we worked on was identifying our good fielders and putting them in the hot spots. Previously, we struggled to hide some of our slower players – often finding that they were the target of the opposition. However, on Wednesday, Pakistan got their placement spot on. Baig is someone who is worth two fielders, as is Muneeba Ali. Through the game, Pakistan made sure they were used perfectly – almost always in areas the ball was being hit
In stark contrast to Pakistan’s rapid improvement, West Indies’ demise from 2016 has been swift. They really looked the opposite to Pakistan – no real plans, energy or understanding of what is required. While it’s certainly a shame to see, the alarm bells seemed to be ringing in their very first game of the tournament, when they beat Thailand in the 17th over chasing a paltry 78. They need to get better quickly or they are going to be out of the tournament by the next game.
One immediate impact of this win is that Pakistan will grow from it, and most importantly, they will go into the next game against England with some real confidence. A Pakistan team that have nothing to lose is a very dangerous team. Opponents, watch out!