x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Umar Gul's poor form no concern for Hafeez

De Villiers confident South Africa can handle Ajmal's threat and may go for two spinners.

Pakistan’s Umar Gul has had a poor tournament so far with two wickets to show for his effort.
Pakistan’s Umar Gul has had a poor tournament so far with two wickets to show for his effort.

COLOMBO // Two wins from two in the group stages and Pakistan should not find themselves in the unusual place that they do.

They are only now getting used to the fact spinners can win them matches too, and suddenly they have got to get used to their batsmen winning games. Soon they might even credit their fielders for a win.

But unfamiliarity with such momentum (and the manner of its generation) has not thrown Pakistan off-kilter ahead of their first Super Eight game against South Africa at the R Premadasa Stadium today in Colombo, even as they grapple with the troubles of their pace attack.

If Sohail Tanvir's struggles were easier to predict, those of Umar Gul were less so and are infinitely more troublesome.

Gul has been one of the driving forces behind Pakistan's Twenty20 successes but has figures of 7-0-82-2 in this tournament so far. That is in line with an indifferent 12 months in the format, where he has gone for nearly eight runs an over and picked up only 13 wickets in 11 matches.

Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's ever confident captain, is not worried yet though.

"Gul himself is so experienced, has played so much cricket that he knows how to handle these things," he said.

"He realises himself if his basics aren't working properly but the good thing is that he is very focused in practice and working really hard.

"We're not worried about him because he is a match winner and he has won so many matches."

Understandably, having Saeed Ajmal in your side tends to lessen any kind of worry and on a surface more likely to grip and break, yet again his may be the key spell.

That much was unchallenged by Hafeez's counterpart AB de Villiers, who acknowledged that not all his side read Ajmal completely.

"He is obviously a great bowler, we all know that," said De Villiers. "But we saw that in the game against Bangladesh he didn't do too well and we have picked some things.

"We hope to tackle him well. We just got to watch the ball closely and play him better."

Such is the surface De Villiers might opt for two spinners himself, although so well rounded is their attack that the composition and threat will not be affected unduly by shifts in balance.

They have actually slipped into the Super Eights almost unnoticed, less burdened by the tag of favourites in a tournament with no clear-cut favourite.

They are currently ranked No 1 in the format but De Villiers has not drawn too much from that.

"We've played only a few Twenty20 games leading into this tournament.

"We haven't played a lot of Twenty20 to prove that we are the best in the world even though we are on top of the ranking.

"But I believe we're one of the favourites. We know we've got to do something special to win this tournament and I believe that we have that X factor."


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