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Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt reveal how their partnership unfolded against England in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 semi-final. Nishad Pai Vaidya caught up with Pakistan’s latest heroes.
Some would believe it all boiled down to that one delivery. With seven wickets down, Pakistan were depending on Zafar Gohar and Amad Butt: 22 to get off 17 balls. Rob Sayer, one of England’s best performers in the tournament, gives it a bit of air and makes Butt go after it, and he does! The ball soars over long-off region, Jack Winslade positions himself as it comes down, mindful of the ropes behind him. It all seems okay, until he fails to latch onto it and tips it over the bar for six. Advantage Pakistan! That moment signified the Gohar-Amad stand.
The ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 semi-final between England and Pakistan was a game that saw many momentum swings. Both teams had their phases of domination and ultimately, Pakistan sealed it as they won those crucial moments towards the end. The credit has to go to Lahore’s Gohar and Saragodha’s Butt. Chasing 205 to win, it looked over when the main batsman Saud Shakeel was dismissed in the 37th over to have them down at 142 for seven. However, Gohar and Butt were on a mission on the big stage. What unfolded was a stuff of dreams for the two teenagers, who are mainly bowlers in their side.
Gohar and Butt’s optimism was evident and they took the challenge well. “In a World Cup knock-out, there is pressure. But, you have to take it positively. We took it as a challenge and made an effort to play all the overs, and we won the game. We knew it was a low total and that if we play all the overs, we will win,” Gohar said after the remarkable victory. With around 70 to get in 13 overs, Butt was initially thinking of turning it over and handing it to Gohar, “Definitely, it was a big game and I was trying to make Zafar play more. Zafar does hit the ball well and even I can.”
Holding their nerve, the duo took singles and twos on offer. The rate did climb a touch, but they were incredibly cool throughout. There were occasions when the English had a go at them, set tight fields, but Gohar and Butt backed themselves. Gohar explains that the modern trends in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) have made sure that there is enough confidence and it is due to it teams back themselves to come good. “In ODIs, a rate around seven isn’t difficult. You have seen in internationals, scores of 300-350 being chased quite easily. Five fielders are in the inner circle and you have got quite a few gaps to target,” says Gohar.
So with that approach, Gohar assessed that if Pakistan bat right through, there was a good chance of a victory. Although seven wickets were down, it was imperative for these two to stick around and back themselves towards the fag end. Gohar explains, “If you have wickets in hand, you can go at a rate of 10-11 an over towards the end [of the innings]. It was our strategy to keep wickets [in hand] and take the game through, take ones and twos and then in the last three overs to score at six or seven runs an over. Amad and me can bat, so that was our plan.”
Gohar was by far the senior partner, but needed Butt to support him. They had maintained their cool until the 47th over, but needed a surge. After all, 23 were needed off 18. A boundary was the need of the hour, as it would relieve the pressure tremendously. That was when Butt came on strike and thought it was his chance to take some pressure off Gohar. “When the off-spinner came on, I felt that I should hit. The run-rate was more than six runs an over. I took a chance and it was six.” From there on, it was easy for these two and they sealed it in the last over. The emotions said it all as the Pakistan players ran out and embraced a pumped-up Gohar. A fifth final for Pakistan and one to look forward to.
While Gohar and Butt revel their moment in the sun, they do realise that the top-order has to click in the final. Pakistan’s top-order has been very consistent and they found themselves in a muddle when the top three failed to make big scores. “We never felt it would happen. Our openers are in good form.”
Gohar does acknowledge the fact that he had to perform when the chips were down and that the lower-order has to perform, if there is a collapse. “No team wants such a difficult game and we would hope we win the final easily. But, it isn’t the case as in big games, there is pressure and some team can panic. Then a team can comeback with a partnership. You have to be prepared for that in big games.”
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