Haris Sohail Defines The Ghosts Of The Past, Of Rest, Deserves Acceptance > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Haris Sohail lays ghosts of past to rest, earns acceptance

With a 59-ball 89, Sohail helped set up Pakistan for a match-winning total of 308.

Haris Sohail was convinced he had had an encounter with a supernatural being at the Rydes Latimer hotel in Christchurch on the night of January 26, 2015. This was a month before the last World Cup and he had woken up in the middle of the night shaking. He phoned a member of the Pakistan coaching team to explain that he felt his bed being rattled by an entity. A doctor confirmed a fever that had caused a nightmare. A spokesperson of the hotel even ratified that "there was no active ghost" in the hotel premise, but a disturbed Sohail decided to bunk with a member of the coaching staff.

"It's all inside his head," said a former teammate, suggesting a fear of failure at the World Cup. Shane Warne, never far from a sledge, brought out a reference to poltergeist on commentary. Social media punned on the word gosht (Urdu for meat) to poke fun at the mis-fit in Pakistan's World Cup squad. He was the left-handed Inzi minus the runs or the personality, they said.

Sohail has often used the word pariizaaii in his early interviews. He yearned for acceptance: for who he was and what qualities he brought to the side. But he was rejected not too long after that World Cup and remained an ODI outcast for a large portion of the between World Cup years, barring four appearances in 2018. Two centuries in a 0-5 defeat against Australia in early 2019 convinced the management that he was going to be the team's biggest middle-order batting hope after Babar Azam. Yet when Andre Russell bounced him out at Nottingham early in the World Cup, those proclamations were deemed null and void and the goshts of the past re-merged. His fitness was thought to be compromising the team's fielding and veteran Shoaib Malik returned to the side for three dismal performances. A stinging defeat to India left the team with no other alternative than give Sohail another chance, this time in a must-win game.

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To see Pakistan's batting, the weaker of their two main suits, go into a shell in the middle overs at Lord's, was to be at the heart of the team's story at the World Cup. Every flaw that dogged them in the recent past was on show. Every reason why they lost games they could have won was played out yet again. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq produced an electric start but their failure to turn 44s into something more substantial brought South Africa back.

Azam held one end up steadily, as he is expected to, but Mohammad Hafeez's slow progress at the other end made it two of a kind, nearly dragging the innings to a grinding halt between overs 26 and 30, where only nine runs off the bat. The scoring rate, that had lurked near the seven mark was down to 4.7. It was then that Sohail lumbered in to join Azam, the scoreboard reading 143/3 at the start of the 31st over.

On a London afternoon that had suddenly turned overcast in a symbolic representation of Pakistan's World Cup campaign, Sohail was the radiance on two legs. Even without the dipping run-rate, there was enough history for him to begin circumspectly. South Africa have been something of a bogey team for him. He missed the Boxing Day Test in Centurion last year 90 minutes before start of play because of a knee trouble. In 2013, he was scheduled to make his international debut against the same team before injury delayed his Test debut by four years. There were ghosts everywhere.

But if there is anything about Sohail that is most reminiscent of Inzamam Ul Haq, besides the girth and lazy demenaour, it is his instinctive urge to create a #wow shot. Off the third ball he faced, he steered a perfectly fine Aiden Markram delivery that offered no room past short third man for a three.

Kagiso Rabada returned in the next over with metaphorical smoke emanating from his boots. Sohail by now had channeled some other facets of his inner-Inzi. His shot making was breathtaking as his running was laboured. South Africa's pace ace was driven off the front foot through covers and past mid-off. When he returned with an expected short ball, Sohail needed very little time, rather he seemed to have a lot of it, to rock back and pull the ball over the deep mid-wicket fence, where a thousand joyous hands went up in excitement.

Chris Morris, South Africa's best seamer of the tournament, was left flummoxed, his hands on his waist and his impish smile turned upside down, as Sohail opened the face of his bat with to guide a perfectly good wide yorker past backward point for another four. Up in the commentary box, Ramiz Raja used the word makhan (buttery smooth) to describe his batting. Pariizaaii was finally forthcoming from different quarters.

Azam now played in Sohail's shadow: running generously and to the danger ends, eager to keep the centre stage clean and polished for Sohail's wizardry to follow. Another dab off Morris for four gave the southpaw a 38-ball half-century, a good eight balls quicker than his previous best to the 50-mark. The partisan crowd at the famous ol' stadium in London roared in approval. The World Cup campaign was turning around after all. Sohail added another 71-run stand with Imad Wasim in which the latter contributed only 23.

When he was eventually dismissed, off the penultimate ball of the innings, he'd been unable to run sharp twos as as a journalist pointed out to coach Mickey Arthur in the press conference. Yet, when Sohail trudged off to a standing ovation, he'd made 89 off 59 at a strike-rate of 150. In a ball shy of 20 overs, he'd helped the team plunder 164 runs and took them to a match-winning score of 308, breathing life into their World Cup campaign once again.

Arthur would shower the knock with the highest praise, calling Sohail's 89 "one of the all-time brilliant innings." Cricket is littered with instances of players changing their jersey numbers to their most influential numbers to serve as inspiration or as homage. That Sohail already had 89 on his back was the only shroud of a spectre left around him now. "I'm very clear in my head right now. I know what my team needs from me," he said.

It's all inside his head.

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