A World Cup campaign which started off on a disastrous note nearly ended in something memorable for Pakistan with the Men in Green missing out on semi-final qualification by a whisker.
In the end, it was an inferior net run-rate compared to New Zealand which proved to be the undoing for Sarfraz Ahmed although they did manage to end the campaign with four wins on the bounce.
Five wins, three losses and a no-result against Sri Lanka was the final report card for Pakistan in a campaign that was eerily similar to their 1992 title run.
Here, we review the performances of the Men in Green.
Nobody really gave Pakistan any chance in their clash against England following their seven-wicket demolition at the hands of West Indies in their campaign opener.
However, in a pulsating battle at Trent Bridge, Sarfraz’s men stunned tournament favourites England by 14 runs following a whirlwind 84 off just 62 deliveries by veteran Mohammad Hafeez.
Hafeez’s blitz helped Pakistan put up a mammoth 348-8 on the board and the side held on for a win despite tons from Joe Root and Jos Buttler for the hosts.
What made the win ever more special was the fact that Pakistan had been whitewashed 5-0 by England in an ODI series preceding the World Cup.
While they did taste a crushing loss against arch-rivals India, it was Pakistan’s extraordinary collapse against the Windies that takes the cake.
Batting first in what was their campaign opener, Pakistan were bowled out for just 105 runs inside a mere 22 overs in a shambolic performance at Trent Bridge.
The batsmen failed to cope with a barrage of bouncers from the Windies pacers led by Andre Russell in a meek capitulation that cost the team dearly in the end.
The resultant negative net run-rate was humongous and the Men in Green were unable to offset it despite the rousing second half.
The classy right-hander’s reputation was enhanced with a stellar campaign that saw him score a total of 474 runs with the help of one ton and three half-centuries.
His run tally is now the highest by any Pakistan batsman in a single World Cup edition and surpassed the previous best of 437 by Javed Miandad in 1992.
Whenever he scored at least 50 runs, Pakistan ended up winning the game and he seems destined for greatness.
The left-handed batsman was dropped from the playing XI after just one game following Pakistan’s loss to Windies but he returned with a bang with back-to-back half centuries.
Sohail’s excellent 89 set up Pakistan’s win over South Africa in a tricky chase while his 68 against New Zealand also turned out to be a vital one. He should now be a lock-in for a middle-order spot going forward for Pakistan.
The left-arm pacer had a miserable last two years in ODI cricket and was not even part of the initial 15-man squad for the World Cup but his selection turned out to be a masterstroke in the end.
Amir led the pace attack brilliantly with a 17-wicket haul across the tournament while going at an economy-rate of under five runs an over. His experience shone through in the end and he was at his very best against Australia against whom he picked up 5-30 at Taunton.
It was not the end to his ODI career the veteran had envisioned with his poor displays seeing him ultimately drop out of the playing XI.
The 37-year-old could only score eight runs in three innings including ducks against India and Australia. He was rightly replaced by Sohail in the second half of the campaign.
Plenty was expected from the explosive opener after his heroics in England in the 2017 Champions Trophy but he failed to deliver the goods bar a scratchy half-century in a losing cause to India.
He aggregated only 186 across eight innings in a performance well below par for a batsman of his standard. Has been off-colour for a while now.
The biggest disappointment with the ball for Pakistan was undoubtedly Hasan Ali who is declining at an alarming rate after a sensational start to his ODI career.
The pacer picked up just the two wickets in four outings and was expensive as well with an economy-rate of nearly eight runs an over. He was dropped from the playing XI after conceding 84 runs against India and never got a look in again in the tournament.
One of the biggest positives for the Men in Green was the stellar debut World Cup campaign of the young pacer who picked up 16 wickets in just five appearances at an average of just 14.62.
The teenager was sensational at Lord’s against Bangladesh where he picked up a memorable five-wicket haul and his meteoric rise in international cricket continues. The left-armer has a very bright future ahead of him and should become a mainstay very soon.
The 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage is finally in the books. A slow, rain-soaked start gave way to fireworks in the second half as Pakistan – almost – improbably came back to sneak a place in the final four.
There’s a strong argument to be made that Pakistan deserve a spot over New Zealand, but fear not – these rankings pay little attention to team position. Here, we’ve highlighted the very best 10 players to have made the last month worth watching.
1. Rohit Sharma (India, up eight spots)
Rohit has always been a great ODI player. Now he is an indisputable all-time great. His five centuries – in just nine group stage matches – surpass Kumar Sangakkara’s record for most at a World Cup, having occupied so much time at the crease that he has put Virat Kohli in the shade. If he can lead India to glory, well, perhaps Kohli should step aside in the ‘best-ever’ debate alongside Sachin Tendulkar.
“I really feel sorry for him … in fact, not only me but the whole team feels sorry for him.” So said Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza whose side, for the most part, feebly assisted Al Hasan’s heroics. One last half-century in defeat Pakistan topped up his statistics to 606 runs and 11 wickets. The next best true all-rounder on the list, Ben Stokes, compiled 381 runs and seven wickets. England are in the semis, Bangladesh were nowhere near. That, sadly for Al Hasan, says it all.
3. Jasprit Bumrah (India, up four spots)
Facing Bumrah is all about surviving, as was noted last time on these pages. Sri Lanka had no chance of doing even that against India’s premier paceman, who removed both openers and then Angelo Mathews to finally stall their brave innings at Headingley on Saturday. The 25-year-old became the second-fastest Indian to reach 100 ODI wickets behind his partner-in-crime Mohammed Shami. India’s pace attack will remain exceedingly bright in the hands of those two, especially given Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s recent troubles.
4. David Warner (Australia, up four spots)
England. World Cup semi-final. Edgbaston. Nothing will motivate Warner more after ending the group stage on a personal high with 122 against South Africa, struck at a strike-rate of 104 – his second quickest-knock of the tournament. With Aaron Finch’s form suddenly deserting him after two low scores on the bounce, the weight will rest ever more heavily on Warner’s shoulders. So far he’s matched it with sheer weight of runs.
5. Mitchell Starc (Australia, up three spots)
England’s boogeyman has suffered a scare himself. The tournament’s leading wicket-taker with an incredible 26 could not hide his consternation over a troubled right knee, leading to a generally off-key display at Old Trafford in which he went for other 6.5 runs an over against a South Africa side dead and buried a long time ago. Not that this should erase credit from his prior performances, but Eoin Morgan may be sleeping a little easier ahead of Thursday’s clash at Edgbaston.
6. Jonny Bairstow (England, new entry)
It took a spat with a fellow Yorkshireman to get Bairstow pumped up and England through to the semi-finals. Back-to-back centuries against India and New Zealand – nations both in the final four – have proved some riposte to a national media he felt were waiting for the team to lose, including White Rose legend Michael Vaughan. His run of form is also down to someone else’s return, but more on him in a bit.
7. Babar Azam (Pakistan, down two spots)
Pakistan fans are a passionate bunch. They’ve been through the mill in England, oscillating from despair to dreams of destiny three decades on from the 1992 World Cup. Babar Azam, born two years after that famous triumph, has not been bogged down by the past. Only once has Babar failed to reach 30, a small miracle in such a capricious side. He hit a stylish 96 against Bangladesh before cruelly being removed by Mohammad Saifuddin, and only moves down the rankings here because the game was essentially a dead rubber.
8. Jason Roy (England, new entry)
Bairstow’s best friend. Or at least he’s friendlier face than James Vince. Since the magic sponge was applied to Roy’s hamstring, not only has the gun batsman fired two consecutive 60s, but he’s enhanced his opening partner’s game. Those fast starts have meant that even when England’s middle order has floundered, they’ve scrabbled together enough runs to see them through. No opening pair in history with more than 1,000 ODI runs between them has done so at a better strike-rate (Bairstow at 111, Roy at 107).
9. Shaheen Afridi (Pakistan, new entry)
Maybe, just maybe, Pakistan would be extending their stay in England if Shaheen had been shown a bit more faith. He certainly deserved more than the wholly ineffective Hasan Ali, and has proved just that in the last three games – all resounding victories. Afridi snared three wickets against New Zealand, a five-for against Afghanistan and an incredible 6-35 against Bangladesh, the best-ever figures at a World Cup by a Pakistani bowler. The good news is that, at 19, Pakistan can probably get another three or four World Cups out of him.
10. Jofra Archer (England, new entry)
In much the same way as Bumrah, Archer’s efforts have probably not got the wickets they have deserved given he is definitely the bowler to avoid in England’s line-up. Only the hopelessly out-of-form Martin Guptill fell to him in England’s last group game, but the runs very rarely flow even when the wickets don’t either. The Barbados-born speedster yielded just 17 of them from his seven overs in the must-win game against the Blackcaps. Now for another crack at Warner and Finch.
Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne said youngsters can learn a lot from Rohit Sharma after the India opener became the first player to score five hundreds at a single Cricket World Cup as India eased to a seven-wicket win in their final group match at Headingley on Saturday.
“Every time he gets a start, he keeps scoring big runs. That’s what you want. He was fearless and he knows how he is going to get a hundred, and he has planned it really well,” Karunaratne said.
“At one time, he went to take a charge and chose what bowlers he wanted to respect. That is what I want for the youngsters. He is an ideal character to watch and learn something from him, if you keep batting and batting.”