Pakistan have returned in a typical Pakistani style. They have ended their terrible losing streak by beating the hot favourites of the tournament – England. That’s Pakistan for you…
Pakistan can be depended upon to produce Pakistan things. Things that nobody does better than them. An apt example would be the crown of 1992 which they won after coming into a position of desperation or the recent 4-0 loss at the hands of their World Cup hosts England in a series where they crossed the psychologically important 300-run mark almost in all the four possible matches or bringing an end to the chase-and-win caravan of the very same hosts who haven’t faced an ODI blemish at home while batting second since September 5th, 2015 i.e. 21 games ago precisely. Only Pakistan can pull off a roar so deafening which sends their Calypso wounds of just three days ago into hiding and that too by beating the world no.1 side in its own backyard.
Pakistan headed into this encounter with an ignominious record of 11-losses on the trot while England came into the game on the back of a resounding win over the South Africans. In this way, the game, before it started, sent out a strong message for the-ever-passionate Pakistani supporters that they might be in for another bout of some really grievous Trent Bridge blues, after all, it was the same treatment that they were meted out on their previous three Trent Bridge visits. But such is the allure of the fanship that no matter how your team has fared in the past, one willingly or unwillingly gets drawn to the game and the very same allure was responsible for a burgeoning green fanbase to turn-up for the game.
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Eoin Morgan won the coin-flip and inserted the beleaguered visitors to once again try their luck while batting first. It seemed that the contest will pan out to be the same old successful English chase story but the three senior, but heavily maligned, Pakistani stars had some other plans. It all started with the opening duo of Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman negotiating the new ball well and putting up 82 runs on the board in just 14 overs. They say that you can build a skyscraper only when you have a solid foundation to build upon. Imam and Fakhar did the same job for the likes of Babar Azam (63), Mohammad Hafeez (84 off 62) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (55 off 44) to take the team total to a respectable height.
One important facet of the Pakistani strategy for redemption was their aggressive approach against England’s highest wicket-taker since the 2015 World Cup Adil Rashid. According to Cricviz, Pakistani batsmen attacked a total of 61% deliveries bowled by the premier leggie – easily the highest aggressive percentage against him since January 2018. Hafeez’s belligerence was at the forefront of this well-executed strategy which allowed Pakistan to hit Rasheed out of the attack as he could bowl only five overs which went for 43 runs.
Even a score as high as 348 didn’t inspire any winning confidence at the half-time as it was the same England whose batsmen had treaded past such high Pakistani scores quite effortlessly in the ODI series which preceded the marquee event. To make the matter worse, Pakistan fielded in exactly the way they are the notorious world over. According to a Cricviz fielding analysis, Pakistan dropped 3 catches besides a really tough half-chance in addition to Sarfaraz’s marshaling errors which resulted in them losing 18 runs during their defense. On the other hand, England’s fielding, which was very much criticized during the match actually won them 20 precious runs, mainly on the back of them takin some really good catches.
Despite such glaring fallacies, if Pakistan managed to neutralize the twin tons from Joe Root and Jos Buttler, it was because of the rise of the two bowlers whose selection into the world cup squad coped some really heavy criticism. Prima facie, Wahab Riaz seems to have conceded a princely sum of 82 runs but he was the one bowler from the Pakistani arsenal who seemed to be picking up a wicket whenever he was brought into the attack. Yet he managed the scalps of Johnny Bairstow, Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes and utilized his intelligent variations of pace, line, and length to a really good effect to quench his doubters.
Another one was Mohammad Amir who seemed to be in a really fine rhythm in the West Indies clash where he picked up three wickets. He continued his good work here again as he scalped out the dangerous Buttler in the 45th over to give a huge boost to his team’s chances of landing a victorious punch on the hosts. His two out of the three overs at the death, which went for just 11 runs and fetched the prized wicket of Buttler, were responsible in England never getting off-the-hook as a consistent pressure was maintained from one end which eventually aided in Wahab and Hasan Ali doing their jobs at the death.
In the end, 14 runs made England second-grade in the final scorecard which meant a huge sigh of relief for an ocean of cricketing fans supporting the most unpredictable Asian cricket team.
If you want to know what the victory means to Pakistan, you will be better off in asking the Pakistani players, some of whom are playing their last World Cups, or the Pakistani coach Micky Arther whose nervous, but ferocious, to-and-fro walks would have shaken the Trent Bridge balcony to its core or the ‘ever-animated’ past Pakistani cricketers expressing their hope for the team in their youtube vlogs or if you want to dig the field, just catch hold of a normal Pakistani fan from the Trent Bridge streets and emotions running through his eyes will bare it all. The redemption has finally arrived for Pakistan.