#PakvsEng: The beauty of Pakistan cricket lies amidst its glorious uncertainties
“Pakistan will play the final of ICC Champions Trophy 2017!”
A little over a month ago, the aforementioned statement would have made you laugh till you cry, but tables have turned now.
Who would have thought that a team which was down for the count after a demoralising defeat in the opening match of the Champions Trophy against India, would end up in the final a couple of weeks later?
But unquestionably, the beauty of Pakistan cricket lies amidst its glorious uncertainties and the infamous unpredictability tag.
Yes, we won’t bother putting up a fight against arch rivals India, but we will topple the number one ranked side of the world, South Africa, with relative ease. Another batting collapse against the Islanders turned a modest target into a mountain to climb and pushed our team to the brink of elimination.
But a couple of days later, the same team ousted contenders and hosts, England, as if it was a piece of cake. This tournament is another glimpse of why you can never write off Pakistan as you’ll never know which version of our playing 11 will turn up on a given day.
Pakistan’s cricket team in cruise control
Turning our focus to the events of the first semi-final, Pakistan were up against England on a bright and sunny day in Cardiff, which was against the norm of the tournament so far which has been marred by constant interruptions due to rain. The green shirts were by far the better side and, as surprising as it may sound, looked in complete control throughout the match. At no point did they show signs of intimidation by the English lions.
One of the predicaments associated with Pakistan cricket teams over the years is the inability to execute their plans in the field, but this Sarfraz Ahmed-led side showed no signs of inefficiencies and were up for the task right from the outset. The wicket-keeper cum batsman led the side in a superb manner and was spot on with his proactive captaincy and bowling rotations.
Bowlers deliver once again
The bowlers did a remarkable job once again and restricted the home side to a mere 211 runs. This was the third consecutive occasion in which Pakistani bowlers limited the opposition to fewer than 250 runs in the tournament and laid the platform for victory.
Hasan Ali was Pakistan’s star performer with the ball once again, bagging three wickets including the scalps of English skipper Eoin Morgan and the dangerous Ben Stokes. His energy and aggression on the field is one of the brightest parts of Pakistan’s game over the past few days. He also became the tournament’s leading wicket-taker after taking Australia’s Josh Hazlewood.
Hasan was ably supported by the likes of Junaid Khan, debutante Rumman Raees and Shadab Khan, who kept things under check. It is important to appreciate the contribution of the debutante Rumman. Replacing the injured Mohammad Amir, he showed no signs of nervousness and ensured that Amir’s absence was not felt.
Pakistan’s bowling supremacy was clear from the fact that Stokes, who blew away Australia with his quick fire century in the previous match, could not even score a single boundary during his 64 ball stay at the wicket.
Fielding was top notch
We normally don’t bracket good fielding and Pakistan together, but to their credit, the fielding effort was top draw against England. It is important to supplement good bowling with proper fielding, and for once, Pakistan did just that. Be it the high flying catch of Fakhar Zaman or the run-out from substitute Ahmed Shehzad, it was a day when everything clicked for Pakistan in the field. Additionally, the ground fielding was marvellous as a lot of runs were saved, which inevitably led to more pressure and hence wickets.
Batsmen did not disappoint
With the contrasting differences in the way both teams batted, it was evident that Pakistan bypassed England in adapting to the conditions. Pakistan made batting look uncomplicated which was apparent from the ease with which they gunned down the target and went over the line.
It was Fakhar once again who led the charge with the bat and gave the English bowlers little opportunity to settle into a good bowling channel. Azhar Ali also showed more intent with the bat as compared to some of his previous knocks and seemed untroubled during his entire innings. A century-plus stand from the Fakhar-Azhar partnership, with both of them notching up half-centuries, was the ideal scenario for Pakistan to chase down this low total.
Pakistan ensured that their antics with the bat against Sri Lanka were not on show again, with the batsmen ensuring that they did not give the home side even a sniff of an opportunity to make a comeback.
The resurgence nearing completion
Ideally, Pakistan’s resurgence will come to a fitting end if they defeat arch rivals India in the final, which of course is dependent on their qualification, as it will cap off a remarkable turnaround by a team which has found limited-overs cricket a constant struggle off late.
Sometimes you wonder what script Pakistan cricket follows as it almost defies logic, and to an extent, it is beyond the comprehension of a common cricket fan, but then again, this is precisely the reason why we love our cricket, don’t we?
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