‘One minute down, the next minute up’ exclaimed Nasser Hussain on live television, when Pakistan beat hosts and tournament favourites England in their second match at the 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup. That basically sums up Pakistan Cricket for you! There has never been a Cricketing nation that has divided opinion as much as Pakistan has, in the history of this wonderful sport.
12 games without a win, and a trashing in their first World cup game against Westindies not withstanding, Pakistan chose England out of every other nation at the tournament to stop their losing streak. The 2019 Cricket World Cup is well and truly on and Pakistan are in back in business!
And it needed their senior statesmen to stand up and be counted. The openers set them up nicely on a flat wicket, which still had some juice for the bowlers. A composed 44 from Imam-ul-Haq who is slowly getting into form, and a decent 30 odd from Fakhar Zaman started things off for them. But what Pakistan needed was some stability in the middle, and that came from the experienced Hafeez, and the ever dependable Babar Azam. Hafeez has been integral to many Pakistan sides over the years, with both bat and ball, and if at all there was a time he had to stand up, it was today. A win was needed today and that too against England. Going two games without a win would have made their chances of a semifinal spot extremely challenging. Hafeez played his role really well. His well made 84 along with a quickfire half century from Captain Sarfaraz ensured England had a stiff target to overcome.
In any other World Cup, and against most other teams, 349 would be considered an impregnable target to chase. But not against this England side, and they showed exactly why. Even though they were 80 odd for 3 at one stage, and later 118 for 4, Pakistan could still not afford to relax as a bowling unit. Root and Buttler showed why England has the best batting in this tournament. With a solid 130 run stand, they inched ever closer to the target. One of them had to play till the end, but today was Pakistan’s day. Despite terrific centuries from both the players, England still ended up short. Today was the fifth consecutive game England had made over 300 runs in an ODI innings against Pakistan, and they had won every one of those games. But the run had to come to an end at some point right?
Bowling figures of 10-0-82-3 would have been considered terrible any other day, but not today. It was Wahab Riaz who was not even in the preliminary World cup squad who got those crucial breakthroughs and put a dent on England’s run-chase. Back he came with a bang, after undergoing severe criticism for his performances over the last 2 years. Those who questioned his selection in this side will remain silent for a while. Along with Mohammed Amir who got the most important wicket of Buttler, they made sure victory was theirs, and ensured their side went home with a 14-run win.
England will come back strong against Bangladesh. Although this will affect their momentum just that little bit, it won’t dent their confidence at all. They are a well-seasoned team and won’t let one defeat pull them back. Bangladesh needs to watch out. As for Pakistan, did you expect anything different at all? After getting bundled out for 74 in their game against England in the 1992 Cricket World cup, they escaped with a point, a point that would take them to the semis, and the rest you know is history. The Cornered Tigers are back, with a point to prove. The more you push them, the stronger they fight back. Every World Cup needs a strong Pakistan side. This one is no exception. And lest you forget, they are the 2017 Champions trophy winners. They know how to win. Write them off at your own peril!