Pakistan - World Cup Hopes - Down but not out

Big win over World Cup favourites - England
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The 2019 World Cup is in full swing and it seems the four semi-final spots have more or less been secured by the four best teams of the tournament – Australia, New Zealand, India and England. But who is to say there are no upsets or surprises in store in the ten-nation tournament, now in its fourth week.   

Pakistan did not enter the tournament as red hot favourites but very few expected them to be so off the boil in a major ICC event. To many they simply have not ‘turned up’ yet and today’s do-or-die encounter against South Africa – thankfully another team struggling to find a winning run – at Lord’s, is set to have a significant impact on both side’s progression in the tournament.

Follow all the action here - Pakistan v South Africa - Lord's - 10:30AM

Pakistan, after five pool games have just three points and a negative net run-rate to show for and hence sitting not-so-pretty at No.9, above Afghanistan, in the World Cup table. Time is running out for Pakistan, just like 1992 World Cup, but the present national team do not have the services of four great men – Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq - to plot another great escape and create history.

The Pakistan team, with the exception of an outstanding win against England at Trent Bridge, have not looked a side, capable of much. The defeats against West Indies, Australia and India have shaken the confidence of the team, leaving the team management, with plenty of headaches.  The frustration of the coaching staff headed by Mickey Arthur and supported by Grant Flower (batting), Azhar Mahmood (bowling) and Grant Bradburn (fielding), is understandable, for Pakistan team have performed so poorly and have not looked a strong ‘unit’.

The heavy defeat against India at Old Trafford, last Sunday, seemed to have rocked the boat for Pakistan. The captain Sarfraz Ahmed, seen yawning during a super-hyped contest with arch rivals, left no one in doubt that this Pakistan side, relying so heavily on the experienced men in the squad, is heading nowhere.

The great advantage of a single league format where ten teams face the other nine teams once, allows teams with poor starts to regain their composure and stage a comeback. As it stands now, Pakistan will need to win all four of its remaining matches – South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh –to increase its chances, to reach the knock-out stages of the World Cup.

Historically, Pakistan do not chase well and hence, regardless of the overhead conditions or the strength of the opposition, it is better off to bat first, upon winning a toss. In the last two matches against Australia and India, each time Pakistan captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, ‘influenced’ by the overcast conditions, paid a heavy price for not batting first and thus also squandering the toss advantage.

It will be interesting to see Pakistan’s final playing eleven today against South Africa. Both Hasan Ali and Shoaib Malik, ought to have been replaced with one front-line batsman – Haris Sohail or Asif Ali and the choice of a new ball bowler will be between Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain. The inclusion of both Shoaib and Mohammad Hafeez, as two experienced batting all-rounders, have not done much for the balance of the side. Only one of them should be included as Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, are two capable front-line spinners, in the Pakistan team, ready to deliver in a crunch World Cup match.

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