The expectations, hopes and sleepless nights for Pakistani fans have ended with their team’s exit from the World Cup. However I believe the World Cup will miss Pakistan’s aggressive, entertaining approach to the game.
In all honesty, Australia did not do anything special to overcome the Men in Green but instead it was Pakistan who self destructed in the quarter-finals.
After winning the toss Misbahul Haq had no hesitation in deciding to bat first, which gave Pakistan early momentum.
In my view Australia made the wrong choice by inducting Josh Hazlewood instead of out and out pacer Pat Cummins. Hazlewood was not threatening at all as he is doesn’t have the ability to bowl with out-swing or with genuine pace.
It was the fielding which really set the tone for Australia as they prevented many boundaries, which in turn forced openers Sarfaraz Ahmed and Ahmed Shahzad into risky shots when trying to beat the fielders.
Sarfaraz was caught trying to guide the ball to the third-man boundary but Starc’s extra bounce led to a superb Shane Watson catch in the slips. Shahzad also found an edge and Michael Clarke took another good catch which reinforced the real difference between the two sides: fielding.
Haris Sohail took the attack to Australia with unorthodox shots but, alongside Misbah ul Haq, was found guilty of not scoring off too many deliveries. This pair looked set to build a vital partnership for Pakistan until both batsmen carelessly threw away their wickets for no reason given the amount of overs left to play.
These wickets signified the end of Pakistan’s tried and tested batsmen. This in turn meant that the over-hyped lower-middle order players including Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi came in to bat far earlier than they should have.
Umar is often regarded as a huge talent but once again showed what a brainless cricketer he can be as he tamely scooped a ball from Glenn Maxwell into the hands of midwicket fielder Aaron Finch. With so many overs left to play Pakistan needed a cool-head with disciplined shot selection.
Shahid Afridi played some big shots and was very effective for a brief spell until he was caught at mid-wicket boundary trying to play across the line and was sent back to the pavilion with cheers.
Out of the five Pakistani batsmen that had played themselves into their innings, not one of them converted the early momentum into a substantial knock as they labored to a poor ODI total of 213. The weak links in Australia’s bowling lineup are Hazlewood and Maxwell and it speaks volumes for Pakistan’s batting effort and strategy that the duo picked up the most wickets.
With such a low total to defend, Pakistan’s only chance of victory was to bowl aggressively. As the irrepressive Wahab Riaz sent David Warner back in the hut, nobody knew that it would the beginning of one of the most fearsome fast-bowling spells in World Cup history.
Wahab, who was sledged repeatedly during his time at the crease with the bat, operated with great emotion as proved too much for Michael Clarke and Shane Watson to handle. For four overs it was a matter of Wahab and wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed playing while Watson ducked to save himself.
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) March 20, 2015
It was a rare sight to see the Australians, typically the bullies of world cricket, get pinned back with world class body line bowling. The Aussies were having a dose of their own medicine as Wahab scared them to into submission.
Eventually Watson popped-up the catch Wahab was working for but his Pakistani teammate Rahat Ali ensured that all the passion and adrenaline pumping through the veins of their team evaporated with a bad drop.
You could say that Rahat dropped the World Cup quarter-final because had he caught Watson at that stage, Wahab would have wrapped the Australian batting and Pakistan would have won despite their low score of 213.
Watson was not the only batsman to struggle against Wahab’s hostitlity as Maxwell too had no idea to tackle the pace, aggression and attitude by the Pakistani bustling pacer.
Maxwell scooped one up after receiving a throat-level bouncer but this time it was Sohail Khan who missed the catch and from there on it was an plain sailing for the co-hosts.
From Pakistan’s perspective Wahab was the star of the show and he did not deserve finish on the losing side. The world came to a standstill as he bowled but, most importantly, he discovered his own talents as a cricketer.
Pakistan leave the tournament with their heads held high and new hope for their national team as Afridi and Misbah bid farewell to ODI cricket.
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Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq, whose team lost to Australia on Friday, thinks the co-hosts will have a tough time against India in the semi-finals at Sydney Cricket Ground because of the better quality of spinners in Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s team.
Misbah’s view could have been influenced by the fact that South African spinners took seven wickets in the first quarter-final in Sydney when they crushed Sri Lanka by nine wickets, but those were a direct result of the intense pressure created by the Proteas pace attack and fielders at the beginning of the innings.
But Misbah is spot on in assessing the spin strength of both teams. “Playing in Sydney they will miss a good spinner,” he said about the Aussies.
Not happy about playing India in sydney. Good pitch for their spinners
— Naim_hawks (@goldandbrown4) March 20, 2015
The Indian duo of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have together claimed 21 wickets while the Aussies have just six wickets from spinners with allrounder Glenn Maxwell claiming five and captain Michael Clarke’s left-arm spin fetching him one.
However, Clarke does not think spin will play a big role on Thursday pointing to the last game they played at the SCG, their Pool A match against Sri Lanka.
Maxwell and left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty went wicketless while the Sri Lankan spinners – Sachithra Senanayake, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Seekuge Prasanna – claimed two wickets in the 24 overs they bowled.
“I don’t think a ball spun in the game we played against Sri Lanka. I think it will depend on what wicket gets prepared,” said Clarke.
“The game that was played there recently (the first quarter-final) looked like it had a bit of grass on it, so that will certainly help our fast bowlers. But if it does spin, we have got spinning options in our squad, so I’m sure the selectors will assess that once we get to the SCG.
“Xavier Doherty has been a really good spinner for the Australian team over the last few years. We’ve got Glenn Maxwell, who picked up a couple of wickets against Pakistan. Hopefully, I can bowl a few overs, and we have got Steve Smith, as well. So, the selectors have options.
“I’ve got confidence that whatever 11 is selected, if we play our best cricket, we give ourselves every chance of winning that game in whatever conditions.”
More than spin, it’s India’s victorious run of seven straight wins and their acclimatisation to Aussie conditions, which worries Clarke.
“I always thought India were going to be extremely tough to beat not only because they are a very good team, but also because they have spent so much time in Australia and know the conditions quite well.
“The game on Thursday is going to certainly be a challenge, and we are definitely going to have to be at our best to beat them,” he added.
However, India need to be wary of their record in Sydney, which is abysmal across formats.
They last won a Test there in 1978 and have just one victory in 14 ODI meetings against Australia.
Interestingly, in that solo win in the first final of the 2008 Tri-Series, the spinners did play a role, with Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla and Yuvraj Singh bowling 24 overs between them for 89 runs and three wickets.