Embattled Pakistan team seek a victory in their last group two match against a formidable but equally tightly placed Australia in World Twenty20 match, in what could be the last international game for skipper Shahid Afridi in in Mohali on Friday.
Pakistan not only need a win but also hope that Steve Smith’s side do them a favour by beating hosts and title favourites India in the last group match — also in Mohali on Sunday.
Pakistan’s net run-rate – currently far superior to both India and Australia – will be enough to give them a place in the last four.
Pakistan’s problems are not confined to field only. They have to tackle the talks of “grouping” in the team as well as “rift” within the team which senior player Shoaib Malik believes an impediment in the progress.
“I think we are struggling to form a good team because of these talks only,” said Malik on Thursday. “The pressure just keeps increasing on everybody. Then all these thins start coming out. When it comes to forming groups, this is the same Shoab Malik who gave up PSL captaincy, the same Shoab Malik who quit Test cricket for youngsters ”
If media reports are any thing to go by, there were scenes of Umar Akmal not mingling with anyone during nets. Umar was seen as a villain in team’s defeat against New Zealand, failing to hit a single boundary in his 26-ball 24.
Malik said the team has the motivation to give Afridi a befitting farewell.
“Everybody knows this is Lala’s last World Cup,” said Malik of the team captain. “I respect him like I respect Inzamam bhai, Waqar bhai, wasim bhai. He is like an elder brother. I have learned a lot from him.
“Nobody will be happeier than me if Pakistan win this World Cup for him. When you lose this kind of things come out. They are baseless and useless. I don’t think I need to say more because anybody can raise a question. The team is one. We all try to win matches, but only one team can.”
Pakistan started the tournament well but then lost the way with a six-wicket loss against India and then left to blame themselves after going down by 22 runs versus New Zealand at Mohali.
The pitch used in the New Zealand game will be re-used and that could incite Pakistan to leave out one of the three fast bowlers and include left-armer Mohammad Nawas for a debut game.
Paceman Wahab Riaz was fit and bowling at his normal speed in the nets after missing the last game with a freakish neck injury. But senior batsman Mohammad Hafeez is still doubtful after being sidelined with a knee (femur) problem.
Australia too have a lacklustre World Twenty20 by their lofty standards, losing to New Zealand by eight runs and then outlasting Bangladesh by three wickets in a close finish.
They need to win their last two games and the task is a motivation for Smith and Co.
“We know both Pakistan and India are two tough teams so we will take them one by one and the aim is to win both the games,” said Smith.
If they win both, it will be the first time that no team from Asia will reach the last four stages in a World Twenty20.