Cricket’s Holy Grail – 4: Rejuvenated Pakistan




World Cup

World Cup

Pakistan was the most popular team (for wrong reasons) entering the World Cup, after the ban imposed on their key players Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. They are currently serving a ban of ten, seven and five years respectively after being found guilty of match fixing. The loss of these three players was evident in the Pakistani team. Had they been in the squad the world cup might have seen a different result. Starting their World Cup campaign with the underdogs tag, they rather surprise the world by beating the likes of Australia and reaching the last four before finally losing out to the eventual Champions-India in the Semi-final.

Leading the team was Shahid Afridi, who with his motivational spirit lifted the tempo of the team by setting an example himself. However the only drawback of Afridi’s team was their poor fielding. Yet they started the tournament with a convincing victory over the Kenyans. The openers were not up to their best yet the middle order fired in tandem. The bowlers bowled superbly with Afridi being the pick of the bowlers finishing with a 5 wicket haul. Shoaib Akhtar, playing his last World Cup was expected to wreck havoc with the opponents’ batting line up but failed to live up to expectations.

The next match against Sri Lanka was expected to be a cracker but thanks to Afridi, who once again came up with a match winning performance, snatching victory from the jaws of the Lions. Afridi was the pick of the bowlers conceding just 34 runs for 4 wickets bowling his full quota which gave the Pakistanis an upper hand in the match. Batting first they posted a competitive total of 277 which the Sri Lankans started chasing very convincingly. But later in the innings, the Lanka’s middle order collapsed and Silva ran out of partners. The match against Canada was supposed to be a cakewalk but it turned out to be a low scoring contest. Once again Afridi came to the rescue with the ball claiming his second 5 wicket haul of the tournament.

The match against New Zealand was a very good contest. The Kiwis posted a challenging target and never let the Green Army settle for the successful run chase. New Zealand picked up crucial wickets at regular intervals and exploited the Pakistanis weakness of complacency very well. The match against the Zimbabwe was merely a formality and helped them reach number one position in their group with four wins and one loss to their name.

The much anticipated tournament against the Aussies was the first Cracker of the world cup. Aussies were banking high on their 34 match winning streak and Pakistan on their current form and Afridi. Some tight bowling and decent fielding helped them restrict the Aussies to a low score of 176. In response the Pakistanis got off to a shaky start but finally reached the winning line by huff and puff. This win ended Australia’s long winning streak in the World Cup and sealed a place for Afridi’s team in the quarters with Windies. The Pakistanis made a mockery of the West Indies batting line up and bundled up for a modest total of 112 which they chased off successfully without losing a wicket. Afridi was again the man behind West Indies collapse.

The next was the mother of all battles, India up against arch rival Pakistan in the semis for a place in the final. The atmosphere at Mohali was electrifying and both the teams played their heart out in Mohali. This match would be remembered for the catches that Pakistan drop and giving Sachin the many opportunities to build on his innings. The match also would be remembered for Misbah’s slow scoring rate. With a modest target to chase down, the Indian bowlers bowled tightly and never let Pakistan settle down to dream of a final berth.

However reaching the Semis with the underdogs tag is in itself quite applaudable. Had they hold on to their chances, they might have been through to the final and may be even the Champions. But they themselves are to be blamed for their faith. Captain Afridi was the pick of the tournament while the speedster Shoaib Akhtar ended his career on a sad note.

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