Wed. Sep 27th, 2023

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Last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe were heart-breaking in contrasting but equal ways and seemed to have ended Pakistan’s hopes before their campaign had even really gotten going.
But now Babar Azam and his side will head to a semi-final against New Zealand in Sydney.
Here is how Pakistan pulled off the greatest of escapes…
A loss in the opening game was always going to be disappointing, but for it to come against rivals India in front of a capacity crowd at the MCG off the final ball of the game was gut-wrenching.
The impact of losing in such a manner to a Virat Kohli-inspired India threw Pakistan off balance, in much the same way as they had done to their neighbours 12 months previously when the roles were reversed.
In some ways, the final-ball defeat to Zimbabwe was even more devastating than the loss to India. Coming against an opponent that they would have expected to beat, Pakistan also should have gone on to win the game from the position they got themselves into in the chase. But a misfiring middle and lower order stuttered at precisely the wrong moment.
Two defeats are often enough to consign a team to a Group Stage exit. One defeat was enough to deny Australia a semi-final spot in Group 1. And the tone in the Pakistan squad was sombre in the aftermath – they knew it required a cricketing miracle for their tournament to be saved from such a position.
Back to winning ways, Pakistan got themselves on the board in style and massively improved their net run rate in the process.
It was the bowlers who set up the win, ripping through the Dutch top order in a terrific team effort. Bas de Leede was forced to retire hurt after being struck in the face, and only two batters made it to double figures as the Netherlands were restricted to just 91/9.
In response it was Mohammad Rizwan who set things up, hitting 49 in a composed chase that lasted just 13.5 overs.
The game that ultimately proved the difference came against an in-form South Africa. Pakistan knew they had to win to be in with any chance on the final day, and win they did.
A sparkling cameo from late call-up Mohammad Haris gave the game an early boost, before classy half-centuries from Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan helped Pakistan to 185/9.
Khan was particularly eye-catching, scoring 52 from just 22 balls, before doing his part with the ball too, removing Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram.
Shaheen Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3/14 as Pakistan tore the Proteas apart. Rain shortened the game, but the position the match was in before the delay meant it only succeeded in reducing the severity of South Africa’s defeat.
Watching on nervously in Adelaide as they waited for the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader, Pakistan could scarcely have believed what they watched.
A good opening stand and some late power-hitting lifted the Dutch to a competitive but very chaseable target. Yet a South Africa batting line-up that had the power to beat anyone in the tournament crumbled when it mattered, stumbling their way to a 13-run defeat.
It was the shock result that Pakistan needed, and suddenly things were back in their own hands for the first time in weeks.
Big players make big impacts in big games, and Pakistan’s stars did just that.
Shaheen Shah Afridi did much of the damage with the ball, ripping through Bangladesh and denying the Tigers a chance to set a decent first-innings total.
And in the chase it was calm (maybe even slow) and exactly what the doctor ordered from Pakistan’s opening pair. Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam had been a misfiring combination for much of the Super 12 stage, but their opening stand set the platform for a successful chase and kept Bangladesh’s most dangerous bowlers out of the game. It wasn’t pretty, but it was extremely effective
A Pakistan side on a roll should worry every team left in the tournament. This is a dangerous outfit and they’ve been handed the most unlikely of second chances in the tournament.
Much will depend on the impact of Shaheen and Shadab. If Pakistan’s best two bowlers can take top-order wickets then that’s what makes New Zealand particularly vulnerable – they don’t bat as deep as the other semi-finalists.
And the Babar-Rizwan opening pair will hope to put their struggles behind them and build on the stand against Bangladesh. These moments call for big players, and they don’t come much bigger than the second and fourth-ranked batters in the world.
Feel the buzz in the stands and see the best teams in the world play on the biggest stage of all.


By admin

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