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Shades of 1992 World Cup final

Pakistan beat England at MCG to claim first WC title

November 12, 2022 00:00:00

England captain Graham Gooch and Pakistan captain Imran Khan at 1992 World Cup (top) and Pakistan's captain Babar Azam and England captain Jos Buttler at 2022 T20 World Cup

There are so many similarities between this unlikely run to the Twenty20 World Cup final and the one inspired by Imran Khan in 1992, when Pakistan beat England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) to claim its first World Cup title in the 50-over format, reports AP.

There are also differences, of course. For a start, skipper Babar Azam is not 39 years old.

Khan was that age, and in the twilight of his career, when he described his team as cornered tigers and went on to lead them to that triumphant win over England in the final.

Babar is 28, but he could match Khan's feat at the MCG on Sunday when his team yet again meets red-hot favorite England -- this time cricket format which was non-existent in the 90s.

For some, it's difficult to fathom how the stars aligned for Babar and Khan in Australia three decades apart.

For instance, both Babar and Khan lost their opening round games at the MCG; arch-rival India got the better of them in 1992 and 2022. Pakistan went on to win their last three games ahead of the semifinals on both occasions, but both Babar and Khan had to bank heavily on the results of other games to go through to the knockout stage on the last day of the group stage.

New Zealand was the opponent in both semifinals, with the Kiwis batting first both times. And top it all, England trounced top-ranked India by 10 wickets in the second semifinal on Thursday so that Pakistan could tick another box in the retelling of the story. "Sensational performance," Pakistan's team mentor Matthew Hayden, a former Australia opener, told Babar and his teammates in the locker room after Wednesday's seven-wicket semifinal win over New Zealand at tthe Sydney Cricket Ground. "It was just an extraordinary effort."

Hayden told a news conference on Friday that the 1992 World Cup was important for Pakistan and the game globally because it "was the emergence of another superpower under one of the most influential cricketers of all time."

"Imran Khan is doing great things. Celebrating democracy is an important part of life and he's doing that like a champion he was in the 92 World Cup. So, yeah, it is important for sure."

Babar's belief in his planning and relying solely on his match-ups against his opponents has been a key to success. He's not one to take cues from what former Pakistan cricketers suggest on the dozens of private television channels focusing on his team. These former cricketers were vocal after the team lost to India and then got beaten by Zimbabwe in back-to-back Super 12 losses that that placed the team in a tight corner in Group 2.

Pakistan's 1992 World Cup-winning fast bowler Aqib Javed was among those who advised Babar to bat lower down the order in the semifinal because he'd only scored 39 runs in five group games.

Instead, Babar went to the practice nets for more than an hour on the eve of the knockout game against New Zealand while his teammates preferred to relax at their hotel. He then produced a half-century which eased Pakistan to victory in the semifinals.

Babar's opening partner Mohammad Rizwan's weakness on the off-side was also the talking point in the Pakistan media, but he posted a half-century, too. They combined in a ninth century opening stand -- the most by any opening pair in the world in T20s.

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