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Pakistan's train is finally back on track, but is it too late?

Last updated on 01 Nov 2023 | 03:23 AM
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Pakistan's train is finally back on track, but is it too late?

Babar Azam and Co. played a near-perfect game on Tuesday, after floundering at various stages of play in the previous four games

Do you know that there are 2967 Royal Bengal Tigers in India now? 

Yesterday, 11 of them were thrashed publically bang in the middle of Kolkata by a team from Pakistan that doesn’t support Project #SaveTheTigers. 

Still, none of them bounced back. It was a debilitating defeat for the Bangladeshi team, whose World Cup campaign began with a public feud between their two seniormost players and has only gotten worse with every passing day. 

It was a near-perfect game for Pakistan in more ways than one, albeit against a Bangladeshi team that can only be described as timid this World Cup. But boy, did they need it after four consecutive losses this World Cup! 

Since the time they won against Sri Lanka at Hyderabad after a record chase, their world has completely changed. Their cricket board has released passive-aggressive statements indicating a probable witch hunt after the World Cup. Their coach pleaded openly to his employers not to do it after their last defeat. 

While the environment off the field was toxic for them, their performance on it was, mildly speaking, uninspiring. 

Also read - What has gone wrong with Pakistan? Almost everything!

Their openers have had one of the worst balls/boundary in powerplays this World Cup and had given them really slow starts in the power play, not allowing their innings to go into 4th or 5th gear. Their power play scores before this game read 43/3, 48/2, 49/1, 59/0, 56/0 and 58/2. Even in yesterday's game, where they chased a total of 205 in 32.3 overs, they scored only 52/0. 

However, something happened for them which hasn’t happened before in this World Cup. Their best six-hitter, Fakhar Zaman, found his hands back, as Steve Smith says. He scored seven sixes in his innings of 81 off 74, coming second on the list of most sixes hit by a Pakistani batter in a World Cup innings. This long-range hitting is what Pakistan were missing. 

Fakhar took some time before setting off, but once he was set, he started sending the ball towards the mid-wicket region with ease. He began with an agricultural but brutal hoick against Taskin Ahmed and then continued to use his feet against the Bangladeshi spinners that never allowed them to settle. 

Meanwhile, on the other end, Abdullah Shafique has easily been one of the only two prolific batters for Pakistan this World Cup, when except for Mohammad Rizwan, most of their other batters have failed. He has scored 332 runs in six innings with an average of 55.33 and a strike rate of 95.12. 

For Abdullah and Pakistan at the top, the manner of runs matters as much as the amount. In that regard, he has looked absolutely elite with his accurate balance on the crease and playing with a full face of the bat. His straight drives were a treat to watch yesterday, as well. 

Pakistan need their openers to fire but do it without losing any wickets. In Shafique, they now have a better who’s steady, technically adept, and accumulating runs consistently. 

Despite their dominance with the bat, it was their performance with the ball that would please the Pakistan team the most. 

To begin with, Shaheen Afridi wasn’t taking wickets with the new ball this World Cup. When he bowled in the first innings, there was hardly any swing at offer in Indian conditions in the afternoon. And when he started in the second innings in the evening, he did get some swing but failed to either control it or bowled just too many boundary balls. 

Even before the South Africa game, where he was taken to cleaners by Quinton de Kock and then later removed from the power play by Captain Babar Azam, he had taken just one wicket at an average of 112 and economy of 5.6 in the first 10 overs. 

His overall figures were still good due to his wickets in the middle overs. Still, he wasn’t doing his job with the new ball, and it was hurting Pakistan because they don’t have quality spinners like India, who can take wickets in the middle overs at a miserly economy rate. 

Yesterday, even that changed as Shaheen got Tanzid Hasan LBW in the first over from a ball that was perfect in line and length - a length delivery on off stump that seamed in at enough pace to evade the bat and thud into his pads. This was something that Shaheen, fondly called ‘the eagle,’ had failed to nail this World Cup. He picked up Shanto as well shortly. The ‘Eagle’ was back, soaring high and mighty again! 

Also read - Pace is Pace yaar, but Haris Rauf, what is this yaar?

Meanwhile, their pace machine, Haris Rauf, who had an economy rate of 10.7 in the first 10 overs (the worst in this World Cup), also managed to dish out an absolute peach of a fireball to get Mushfiqur Rahim’s edge. He eventually ended up with two wickets at an economy of 4.5 in 8 overs. Haris needed it, and more than that, Pakistan needed it. 

Pakistan picked up three wickets in the power play yesterday. That was what they needed this entire World Cup! 

After that, it was largely the Bangladesh batters in the middle who threw their wickets. At the death, the way Mohammad Wasim Jr. bowled his reverse swinging yorkers was a sight to watch. It was too much for Bangladeshi batters, whose board president had advised them to play courageous cricket but succumbed tamely. 

Bangladesh couldn’t score more than 204 when the Pakistani bowlers finally showed up. And that’s what this World Cup needs, right? For teams to show up and fight. Some of them, like Bangladesh and Pakistan in the last four games, were missing that zing that gets a tournament going. 


Amidst the chaos of their board politics, Pakistan cricket rose again yesterday. Shaheen got wickets with the new ball, Haris and Wasim were more than just good in the middle overs, and their openers finally performed. It was all they could hope for, given their limitations as a team with a poor spin attack.

However, after four losses on the trot, they still need a heap of results to go their way, beginning today, as they would want New Zealand to lose today and, ideally, go on to lose most of their games from here. 

Pakistan’s derailed train has finally come on track again. A hapless Bangladesh helped it. But their comeback has come, finally. And for now, that should just be enough.

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