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Hammad keeps Pakistan’s dream alive

The backward Fatehjang tehsil in the Attock district of Pakistan is famous for three things — pathar (stones), jhakkar (high winds) and Gheba sardars (a caste of landlords). It could soon become known for being the home of Hammad Azam, a talented young cricketer who piloted Pakistan into the final of the Under-19 World Cup, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: Jan 26, 2010 00:25 IST
Anand Vasu

The backward Fatehjang tehsil in the Attock district of Pakistan is famous for three things — pathar (stones), jhakkar (high winds) and Gheba sardars (a caste of landlords). It could soon become known for being the home of Hammad Azam, a talented young cricketer who piloted Pakistan into the final of the Under-19 World Cup.

On a sunny summer's day, Pakistan got into a tangle chasing a comfortable 213 against the West Indies in the first semifinal.

After the bowlers had done a solid job, the top order imploded against some disciplined seam bowling. Ahmed Shahzad, Babar Azam, Ahsan Ali and skipper Azeem Ghumman cranked up the pressure and Hammad walked out with the score on 49 for 4 in the 20th over. The game was there to be lost, but Hammad showed he is made of sterner stuff.

He began slowly, first loosening the vice-like grip the West Indian fast bowlers had established. It helped that Rameez Aziz responded well to calls and worked cheeky singles of his own, forcing the West Indies to switch to their slower bowlers.

It was then that Hammad made his move, cutting and pulling with such authority that the momentum began to shift Pakistan's way.

Hammad and Aziz added 90 for the fifth wicket, and were only separated by a miscalculated single that resulted in a run out.

“Our plan was to have small targets and work towards them, 20 runs at a time. We needed singles because the target

was not large and we would have a power play in the end if we had wickets in hand,” said Hammad.

When Aziz (39) was run out, Pakistan still needed 74, but Hammad did not panic.

“I've changed my game after listening to coach Ijaz Ahmed,” said Hammad. “I did not go for the big shots, but focussed on staying there till the end.”

Hammad executed his plan perfectly, and was unbeaten on 92 when the winning runs were scored.

When a fan suggested to Hammad that the final was irrelevant as Pakistan had already beaten India, his reply was simple.

“This is a World Cup. Beating India was not the aim, taking home the Cup is,” he said.

“We won a great match against India, but that's not the point, that's history.”

At Lincoln: West Indies 212-8 in 50 overs (Kraigg Brathwaite 85, Shane Dowrich 55, Andre Creary 41; Sarmad Bhatti 2-37, Raza Hassan 2-41) vs Pakistan 213-6 in 48.3 overs (Hammad Azam 92 not out, Rameez Aziz 39; Jason Holder 2-28). Pakistan won by 4 wickets

Reddy stars as India beat England

India registered a comfortable win over England, whom they had lost to in the league phase, keeping alive chances of a fifth-place finish. Once again, the bowlers put in a strong performance with Saurabh Netrawalkar and Sandeep Sharma choking England's top order.

Skipper Ashok Meenaria picked up 4 for 35 with his left-arm spin as England folded for 176.

India then cantered to a seven-wicket win, led by a brisk 94 at the top of the order from debutant Akshat Reddy, the reserve batsman, who did not play a single game in the main draw.

India’s final game is against South Africa on Wednesday.