After the loss to West Indies, a draw against Sri Lanka due to rain and then two more defeats against India and Australia, Pakistan never looked like a side who could make it to the top-four in the World Cup.
Pakistan, however, are making it a habit to start slow and peak at the later part of the ICC tournaments, winning and moving forward towards the silverware.
The 2017 Champions Trophy stands witness that Pakistan can never be considered out of a tournament, until they are actually out with no mathematical of statistical chances of moving one step further.
Here are the three most visible signs that Pakistan are peaking at the right time in the World Cup and come July 14, they might actually be playing in the final of the 2019 World Cup.
Pakistan’s comeback victories over a failing South Africa, a dominant New Zealand and testing minnows Afghanistan are just one of the signs that Sarfaraz and his army are not letting go easily.
While victories over South Africa and New Zealand, two of the most formidable teams in ODI cricket, may have come easily, the win over Afghanistan came in rather testing fashion.
All-rounder Imad Wasim, who was firing blanks throughout the tournament, showcased his ability to play the finisher’s role for Pakistan. His contribution with the ball was also a good sign that Pakistan now have a dependable lower middle-order which can contribute important runs in both setting and chasing targets.
The luck factor
The gentlemen’s game may be all skill and temperament but luck has shown that it can never be ruled out in cricket.
Imad Wasim was caught LBW against Afghanistan before he led the team past the finish line, but courtesy some bad umpiring and also luck, he survived to become the hero of the day.
Meanwhile, in bowling, inside edges have somehow found their way to the wickets rather than running down to fine leg which show that lady luck in standing in Pakistan’s corner.
Will their luck run out before the World Cup final or is there a chance that they will ride it to the very end is still to be seen, but for now, it is helping Pakistan and the fans are happy about it.
A set team combination
Former Pakistan Test captain Misbahul Haq very aptly explained that Sarfaraz and co always struggle at the start of the tournament because they are not able to identify a winning combination of players.
However, this time they were not too late as the introduction of middle-order batsman Haris Sohail and left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi has helped them find the perfect playing eleven.
Wahab’s right-hand was injured in the match against Afghanistan but he was still included in the side and he made sure his presence was felt when he hit a six at the latter part of the chase to ease the pressure off Pakistan.
The openers’ performance is still under scrutiny but a dependable middle-order is making sure the batting line doesn’t fall like a deck of cards after early losses at the top of the order.
All in all, everything is going in Pakistan’s favour with the team set to take on Bangladesh in their final group match which may eventually turn into a virtual quarter-final.
All eyes, till then, will be on England who need to win all their remaining matches, while Bangladesh will also have to beat India before they face Pakistan.
Nature is conspiring in favour of Pakistan, let’s hope the Men in Green come back home with yet another ICC trophy in their hands.