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June 24, 2019

Haris Sohail returns with a bang


June 24, 2019

LONDON: It was a critical phase in their innings for Pakistan as they looked to put on a challenging total in the must-win World Cup match against South Africa, writes Khalid Hussain.

Senior batsman Mohammad Hafeez had just fallen to the part-time spin of Aiden Markram on the last ball of the 30th over. Pakistan were 143-3 and knew that one of their batters needed to rise to the occasion and get them past the 300-run mark to put the Proteas under pressure.

In came, Haris Sohail.

The 30-year-old left-hander had been handed a raw deal before Sunday’s game at Lord’s. He was dropped after just one World Cup failure (he scored 8 runs in Pakistan’s seven-wicket defeat against West Indies) as Pakistan persisted with the misfiring Shoaib Malik in three consecutive matches against England, Australia and India.

It was only after Malik’s back-to-back noughts in defeats against Australia and India that Pakistan were finally forced to bring back the more reliable Haris.

And he made the most of the opportunity. Generally regarded as a middle-order batsman, who is more of a consolidator, Haris provided the Pakistani innings with the sort of impetus that it was looking for following the dismissal of Hafeez.

In an impressive display of crafty batting and power-hitting, Haris clobbered the South African attack for 89 runs from just 59 balls with the help of nine fours and three sixes. His knock was completely out of character something that was aptly underlined by his stunning strike rate (150.84). That’s almost double his career strike rate (83.05).

Perhaps Haris had a point to prove. Pakistan had been persistently ignoring him as they favoured Malik despite a series of failures. Why were they opting for Malik despite the fact that the veteran all-rounder was completely out of form?

Ask Waqar Younis and he would tell you that fear could have been the chief reason behind this selection blunder. “During important and high-pressure tournaments like the World Cup, some teams get scared and look towards experience despite having younger and better options.

“I think Pakistan felt safer having a seasoned player like Malik in the playing eleven instead of Haris despite the fact that he (Haris) was the more reliable bet. “They probably were scared that a less experienced Haris could falter in high-pressure matches especially the one against India,” Waqar, a former Pakistan captain and coach told ‘The News’ on the sidelines of Sunday’s game at Lord’s.

“Pakistan are not the only side taking such decisions out of fear in this tournament,” he noted. “Take the case of the Indian team. I think they are persisting with (MS) Dhoni for the very same reason. Dhoni brings in experience and that’s why he is in the team despite the fact that India has better wicket-keeping options like (Rishabh) Pant.”

Meanwhile, Haris showed in front of a packed Lord’s ground that Pakistan could have been better placed in the World Cup had they trusted in his abilities. But, as they say, better late than never.

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