Younis Khan’t wait for final

2009-10-03 00:00

THAT New Zealand have made it this far in the Champions Trophy has probably surprised even the most ardent Kiwi fans. Ravaged by injury and coming off a tough tour in the sub-continent, the Kiwis must have had half their bags packed for home when they faced England in their last group game a week ago.

But they made the most of a crucial toss, and they bundled England over on a farcical pitch at the Wanderers.

They return to the Bullring today to face a talented, confident Pakistan outfit. Daniel Vettori’s side face an almighty struggle to make it to Monday’s final, as Pakistan look strong in all departments and are shrewdly led by Younis Khan.

Where other captains may adopt a steely approach, never showing their emotions, Khan is the complete opposite.

He smiles with his players, lifts them periodically and never misses an opportunity to praise them.

When asked if Misbah ul-Haq’s lean run with the bat was a worry, Khan took the question as a chance to heap praise on his embattled middle-order man.

“Well, there was only one fifty in our match against Australia and Misbah’s 41 was one of the better knocks. So if he is struggling, I don’t know what to say about myself as I only made three!”

As the laughter hushed, Khan then reminded his audience that ul-Haq had played a vital role in Pakistan’s revival.

“I think he deserves some respect. He has been there throughout this year, but a bad run does not make him a bad player.”

There aren’t many bad players in Khan’s squad as it is, and there is an almighty scrap for bowling roles already.

Comeback kid Mohammad Asif did enough against Australia to be considered good and ready for a play-off match.

But so too did Rana Naved. And Umar Gul.

Young Mohammad Aamir, meanwhile has done nothing wrong and would feel rightly aggrieved to miss out at this stage.

So Khan has pleasant dilemmas, while Vettori is making do with bits and pieces cricketers who are punching above their weight.

Khan has already cast a cheeky eye to the final, citing a rematch against Australia as a fitting spectacle.

After their memorable triumph at the Twenty20 World Cup, Pakistan are reveling in the right kind of media attention.

“At this time, it is important for Pakistan cricket to be involved in big matches. India and South Africa are out, so why not have a final against the best in the world?”

Where others would have hoped to avoid the Aussies, the engaging Khan is calling them out, daring them to book a date on Monday.

It would, indeed be a fitting finale.

TEAMS

New Zealand (from): Brendon McCullum (wk), Martin Guptill, Neil Broom, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Daniel Vettori (capt), James Franklin, Kyle Mills, Shane Bond, Ian Butler, Aaron Redmond, Brendon Diamanti, Jeetan Patel, Iain O’Brien. (Scott Styris subject to ICC approval)

Pakistan (from): Kamran Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Younus Khan (capt), Shoaib Mailk, Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Saeed Ajmal, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Aamir, Fawad Alam, Rao Iftikhar.

ON TV

Pay starts ast 2.30pm – live on SABC 3 and Supersport 2 from 2pm

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