Captain Babar Azam admitted Pakistan overcoming a sluggish start to reach the T20 World Cup final against England on Sunday is “like a dream come true”.
Pakistan began their campaign with a last-ball defeat to neighbours India, labelled one of the greatest limited-overs matches of all-time, and the hangover continued with a one-run loss against Zimbabwe.
They bounced back in emphatic fashion with two wins and the Netherlands’ shock triumph over South Africa left the door ajar for Pakistan to beat Bangladesh for a top-two spot in their Super 12s group.
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They eased past New Zealand in their semi-final and now head back to the MCG, the scene of their India defeat but also where Imran Khan’s ‘cornered tigers’ unforgettably won the 50-over World Cup in 1992.
“We couldn’t start off well but we came back with great momentum,” Babar said. “In the previous three or four matches, we have played very well on both an individual and team level.
“We’ve been working really hard for this. It feels like a dream come true to reach the final.”
An against-all-odds run to the final has been likened to Pakistan’s triumph from 30 years ago. On that occasion, Pakistan had won one and lost three of their first five matches, with one no-result.
In parallel with the contemporary side, Pakistan won their last three group games to sneak into the knockout stages and beat New Zealand to set up a showdown against England at Melbourne.
On that occasion, Pakistan prevailed by 22 runs in one of cricket’s most unlikely triumphs.
“The similarities are the same but we will try to win the trophy as it is an honour for me to lead this team, especially in this big ground,” Babar said.
Babar and Mohammad Rizwan came back into form with twin half-centuries in their seven-wicket victory over the Black Caps after lean spells in the group stages.
Babar, who had made just 39 runs off 63 balls in five innings before 53 off 42 deliveries on Tuesday, paid tribute to those lower down the order for making sure they did not sink without trace.
“Great pressure is built upon you when you are under a spell of not scoring well,” Babar added.
“But I’d like to commend the middle order, they stepped up and took the responsibility to achieve what me and Rizwan couldn’t. Iftikhar (Ahmed), Shadab (Khan) and (Mohammad) Haris played extremely well.
“Although I couldn’t perform well, the rest of the team performance kept me motivated.”