Never dare to predict about Pakistan! Never dare to analyse Pakistan! You never know what can they dish out! Either they are cornered Chickens one day while cornered Tigers the other day. More often they leave everyone surprised with their display. But when they are on song, they are always a joy to watch.
Pakistan attracted enormous criticism after a disheartening defeat against arch-rivals India on Sunday; their fans started losing faith in them and the team needed to something extraordinary to stay alive in the tournament. Pakistan were scheduled to play the No.1 One-Day International (ODI) side South Africa in their next fixture and more importantly a win to keep themselves alive in the tournament. They overcame a huge mental barrier and bounced back emphatically to beat the best ODI side in a rain-affected game by 19 runs as per the Ducksworth-Lewis method.
This win has not only kept them alive in the tournament but also given their fans a much-needed relief. Though they still have a number of issues to be addressed like some depth in batting and a reliable opening pair, as of now, they have a win to cherish. This was not an ideal show from Pakistan by far, but they did few things right, which will inject immense confidence on the potent side for the rest of the tournament. Their bowling was simply alluring to watch, the inclusion of Junaid Khan at the expense of injured Wahab Riaz turned out to be fruitful for Pakistan as the canny left-arm pacer scalped two wickets and bowled a tight line.
Pakistan did a god job in most of the departments to evolve victorious. Sarfraz Ahmed was comparatively more attacking than the previous game, Pakistan’s bowling was right on the mark and lived up to their reputation. Conventionally, Pakistan is known for their impactful bowling attack and this outing was just a testament to that. They were effective if not outstanding when it came to fielding and brought a lot of yorkers into play in the death overs, which was mesmerising to watch.
South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first, Pakistan bowlers had a tough task in their hand in containing the powerful batting line-up of the Proteas. When seamers didn’t manage to get the early breakthrough, Imad Wasim removed the in-form Hashim Amla for 13 after which, Mohammad Hafeez with his off-spin got rid of Quinton de Kock for 33. Pakistan didn’t stop there, the Superman of cricket AB de Villiers was also sent back early on in the innings for a golden duck and the South African spine was broken. Getting De Villiers early is always a boon for the opposition and Pakistan ensured they got one.
Sarfraz Ahmed attacked this time and looked for wickets, which helped them achieve fruitful results. Pakistani bowlers kept picking wickets at regular intervals and didn’t let South Africa achieve a massive total. David Miller and Kagiso Rabada played well and helped South Africa post a respectable total. Junaid Khan and Mohammed Amir delivered a wonderful spell in the death and kept bowling yorkers to perfection. South African batsmen were finding it very difficult to score runs against the full deliveries.
Hassan Ali took a fantastic catch of Kagiso Rabada in the penultimate over, which was a demonstration of how Pakistan have stepped up on the field after being sloppy against India. Pakistan were outstanding with the ball, which was the key reason behind them emerging victorious. They were astute enough to rectify their errors from the previous game, which speaks highly about their character and attitude.
Chasing 220 against a formidable bowling attack like South Africa was always going to be a challenge and demanded immense temperament. Pakistan made a change in their top-order to address the opening pair woes and gave debutant Fakhar Zaman an opportunity to showcase his talent. Ahmed Shehzad was dropped as Zaman made way and the belligerent southpaw made an immediate impact but failed to convert at the top. A target of 220, with rain looming over needed a solid start at the top. Zaman came out all guns blazing and scored a brisk 31 off 23 deliveries to get his team off to a solid start. He was undone by some wise execution of plans from Morne Morkel.
Pakistan lost another wicket in the form of Azhar Ali immediately after Zaman’s dismissal. Pakistan needed a stable partnership especially considering their poor record while chasing. Mohammad Hafeez walked in and along with Babar Azam played out the pumped South African bowlers with utmost care. They had enough deliveries and the asking run-rate was never going to be a problem. Hafeez scored runs at a slower rate but ensured Pakistan got into a safer position. Morkel once again steamed in and got rid of a well set Hafeez who was starting to look dangerous.
Shoaib Malik continued his good form and scored a quick 16 while the rain clouds surrounded Edgbaston. Azam also shifted gears and ensured Pakistan were well ahead of the par score as per the D/L method if it starts pouring. Eventually, rain interrupted as expected and Pakistan were well ahead of the par score only to walk away with a much-needed win. They have now given themselves a golden opportunity of making it to the semi-final with a solitary game left against Sri Lanka.
If they continue to play the way they did against South Africa, there is no possible reason why they can’t make it to the semi-final and from there on it’s a roller-coaster ride. As of now, Pakistan have shown some mettle and are here for a fight.