Pakistan ticked several boxes as they wrapped up a fourth win in four games at the T20 World Cup
Pakistan 189 for 2 (Rizwan 79*, Babar 70) beat Namibia 144 for 5 (Wiese 43, Williams 40, Imad 1-13, Hasan 1-22) by 45 runs
With one foot in the semi-final already, and having an opportunity to tick off some other boxes before the knockouts, Pakistan did exactly that by opting to bat first, putting on a total of 189, and then defending the score with ease.
Pakistan’s 45-run win over Namibia has now confirmed their final-four spot, leaving only Scotland in their path to a 100% group-stage win rate.
The only box Pakistan did not tick was in testing their bench strength. Pakistan played the same XI like their first three games, and Azam said that was because the Namibia contest was their first in Abu Dhabi. Although Pakistan’s bowlers could take only five wickets in Namibia’s chase, they did well to restrict their opponents to 144 with Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali going at economies of less than six.
Azam-Rizwan develop a century habit
Pakistan’s start was not fluent. Left-arm seamer Ruben Trumpelmann beat Rizwan’s outside edge thrice in the first over to start off with a maiden. Rizwan then struggled with his timing as he either missed or mis-hit his shots. With the Namibia seamers – JJ Smith and David Wiese, along with Trumpelmann – all bowling change-ups on a sticky deck, Pakistan could only muster 29 in the first six overs. That was the fourth-lowest powerplay score in all T20Is for a team that lost no wickets.
But while Rizwan was looking off-colour, Azam kept finding the gaps with his controlled aggression and together they reached 59 in ten overs. At that stage, Azam was on 43 and Rizwan 16 in 25 balls.
But with ten wickets in hand, and only ten overs left, the duo had the liberty to up the risks. Azam’s 70 took them to their fifth T20I century stand – the most by any pair in the format’s history – before the first wicket fell in the 15th over. But by then, Pakistan were at 113.
Rizwan changes gears
Aggression was the only way to approach the last five overs. But Fakhar Zaman did not last long, caught by the wicketkeeper Zane Green as he dived to his left after being briefly wrong-footed. That brought in Mohammad Hafeez at No. 4, and he began with an assault that saw him made 32 in 16 balls that included five fours. Most of those boundaries were deft shots, either scooping fours past short fine leg or threading late cuts between backward point and short third man.
In Hafeez’s company, Rizwan finally found his hands. Before the final over, he was on 55 off 44 balls. And then he decided to break loose. The last over from Smit went for 24 off Rizwan’s bat and Pakistan’s late hitting took them to 189 for 2. Namibia leaked 130 in the back half after conceding only 59 in their first half.
Hasan finds his footing
Although Hasan hasn’t been horrendous by any means, the success of the other bowlers in the Pakistan set up so far meant that he was the least impressive bowler in the XI coming into the game.
On Tuesday night, he – instead of Imad – was given the new-ball duties alongside Shaheen Shah Afridi, and struck in his first over by getting a full ball to swing in and dislodge left-hand batter Michael van Lingen’s stumps.
That set the tone for his first spell, where he conceded just nine runs in two powerplay overs. He returned for another two overs later in the innings, and conceded only 13 in those 12 balls to finish with 1 for 22. It was just the kind of return Pakistan needed from Hasan for his own confidence moving into the business end.
Too much for Namibia to do
Although Namibia lost just five wickets, they were never really in the chase. Craig Williams batted for 37 balls, but he could eke out only 40. Stephen Baard made a run-a-ball 29 before being run out. Gerhard Erasmus’ 10-ball 15 looked promising, but he was snuffed off by Imad before he could cause big damage.
With three overs to go, Namibia’s chances of a win according to ESPNcricinfo’s forecaster was 0.67%. And despite the ultra-aggressive hitting from David Wiese it kept dipping even further. Wiese did the best he could to ignore the match situation and entertained the crowds with his two sixes and three fours to finish unbeaten on a 31-ball 45.
Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx