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“The comparisons from 1992 are running at another level. It’s the mother of all coincidences. There has never been a similar result sheet for any team in the history of the World Cup”

Three losses, one win, one washout.

That was Pakistan’s state after their first five games. The captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was under the scanner. The team was under the pump and was pushed in a corner.

Pakistan were trolled, Pakistan were abused, Pakistan looked dead and buried. There was criticism left, right and centre after their defeat to India about 10 days back. The Pakistan media and the fans were fuming. Hope diminished. Questions after questions lined up.

However, that was a week back before they played the sixth game of this World Cup. They had played just five games back then. Just two games later, they are well and truly alive.

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If you thought the Pakistan side (the dangerous one) that arrived against South Africa was just a one-off, you might be wrong. They’ve continued in the same vein. That other Pakistan hasn’t left. There hasn’t been a change. They’ve produced a brilliant performance against New Zealand and have kept all their hopes alive.

It wasn’t easy by any means. Pakistan had to grind it out. They needed to dig deep and come out with multiple answers to some tough challenges.

Also read: Finally, the other Pakistan turns up

They were on top right from the start of the game. Mohammad Amir produced the perfect start as he knocked over Martin Guptill. It was then the Shaheen Afridi show. He bowled well fire and intent as he moved the ball at pace and caused a lot of trouble for the New Zealand batsmen. At one point, he had figures of 7-3-11-3!

However, New Zealand bided their time after that storm. Kane Williamson started it but couldn’t last long either. It was Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme who pulled the Kiwis through. It was their effort which got them to 237.

It was a very competitive score on that pitch. Moreover, Pakistan don’t have a great history, chasing down totals, especially under pressure. Hence, they had their task cut out. They lost Fakhar Zaman early and then Imam-ul-Haq followed soon after the powerplay ended. The pressure was on once again.

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Mitchell Santner’s introduction raised eyebrows. The ball was turning square. He was beating a decently set Babar Azam fair and square. They struggled against the left-arm spinner. Azam was given a life as Tom Latham shelled a tough chance. There was another Mohammad Hafeez brain-freeze as he got out to another part-timer (Kane Williamson). It was the third time in the tournament and once again all the hard work was undone.

110/3 at the half-way stage and the game was in the balance. Azam had Haris Sohail for company who struggled initially. But soon found his flow and the duo started the recovery. Slowly but surely, they put Pakistan on track. They targeted the right bowlers and kept the scoreboard ticking.

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Soon, it got to a stage that only Pakistan could lose it from there. Babar Azam soon got his 10th ODI hundred, the first in World Cups. Haris Sohail got his second successive fifty and another match-winning one. And in the end, Pakistan cantered along. On a tricky surface, the way they applied themselves was outstanding.

The comparisons from 1992 are running at another level. It’s the mother of all coincidences. There has never been a similar result sheet for any team in the history of the World Cup.

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All that criticism has been put to bed now. Pakistan have turned up and produced two magnificent performances to finally announce themselves in this World Cup. It seemed like they had done so after beating England. However, that seemed an aberration.

But it’s all changed in the space of four days. But Pakistan are aware that the job isn’t done yet and this won’t run solely on how the 1992 results panned out. You never know which Pakistan side arrives on the day. That fear is still there.

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But one thing is for certain when Pakistan are pushed in a corner, the desperation kicks in. And when that happens, the results turn around as well. They’ve responded for two games in a row and now, their challenge is to sustain it throughout the rest of the tournament. The predictably unpredictable side need to get predictable and win everything!

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