Ever since the ICC World-XI landed on Pakistani soil, it has been a pompous revel for them off the field. From airport to hotel and from hotel to the stadium, Pakistan continues to show their dear guests why this country is known for its splendid hospitality. The World-XI skipper Faf du Plessis even remarked that the security made him feel like being in a movie. However, on the field, Pakistanis mean business. After comfortably overpowering their counterparts by 20 runs, team Pakistan proved that their dominance on their very own turf has not gone rusty.
Winning the toss was one of the few things that went in World-XI’s way today. And opting to bowl first was one of the few decisions that reflected prudence on Faf’s part. The rest, both the game and the decisions within, went the wrong way for the guest side. On final eleven, World-XI must have direly missed the dexterous West Indian leggie Samuel Badree, who couldn’t make it to Lahore in time owing to his personal commitments. The Imran Tahir’s spell and Shadab’s turn remained testament to the fact that the wicket was a leg-break heaven. Had Badree been there, he surely would have made life difficult for the likes of Ahmad Shehzad and Shoaib Malik, who added extra odd runs to the Pakistani innings.
Second, playing George Bailey in place of Thisara Perera would have made sense as boundaries were very short and in such conditions, Bailey’s experience would have come in handy. On top of it, Perera conceded a whopping 51 runs in four overs; it probably cost his side the match. And dropping Perera would have meant more overs for Sammy and Elliott, which would definitely have been a better option than giving a full spell to Perera. Nonetheless, Faf still had plenty to extract from his playing eleven, but somehow missed out.
The skipper could have also managed his explosive batting line-up in a more advantageous way. He sent Tim Paine at number three and came to bat at number four himself. More intriguingly, Darren Sammy, the ideal hitting option keeping in mind the Gaddafi Stadium contours, was sent after Perera and Elliott, not to mention David Miller’s relegation to number five. Moreover, bowling line-up is indeed the weakest link in the World-XI side. The fact that only once in 19 attempts a team have chased down 170+ target set by Pakistan necessitates for Du Plessis to use his limited bowling options more shrewdly. Adding experienced Paul Collingwood and Samuel Badree to the mix in the next encounter can surely extenuate bowling problems for the World-XI.
Pakistan, on the other hand, managed to maintain the impeccable home record in T20Is, as total of four T20Is have been played in Pakistan, Pakistan have won all four. Sarfraz eleven also carried the classic Champions Trophy legacy by playing a brand of cricket that perfectly characterizes the phenomenon that is team Pakistan. Notwithstanding Fakhar Zaman’s dismissal on the third ball of the game, forthcoming batsmen showed same aggression and class that had been the hallmark of their memorable July triumph. From Babar Azam’s swashbuckling cover drives to Shehzad’s flicks, from Malik’s nostalgic yet thunderous late cameo to Imad’s trademark sixes, Pakistan’s innings remained as euphonious as strings of modern-day T20 cricket require.
The most deserving winners of the much anticipated match were indubitably the fans, whose longing to witness the international action in their home grounds had long exceeded their desire for anything else. So they bought the tickets, joyously had them stuck in the excruciating traffic jams, parked their vehicles number of kilometres away from the stadium, and entered the arena, only to witness the sons of the soil. The same sons of soil who had become aliens for their own countrymen, just because some alien terrorists had decided to dislodge the entire cricketing family back in 2009. Let those beasts be known that this time-tested relationship of heroes and their fans will never, ever be broken. And the stadiums where this relationship strengthens will continue to glitter, both in the sunlight and the floodlights.