Pakistani hearts must have been broken to see their side exit the World Cup after their six wicket defeat at the hands of Australia in Adelaide. In years to come, when people read the scorecard of this match, they will probably think that it was a very one-sided encounter but in actual fact and deed, it was a close contest.
Pakistan batted poorly as, regrettably, they have throughout this tournament. On a good wicket to be bowled out for 213 was extremely disappointing, more so with two of our top set batsmen losing their wickets to a part-time off spinner. One would not have thought that a target of 214 would pose a serious problem for the Aussies but the Pakistan attack, led magnificently by Wahab Riaz, put everything into it and if they had been supported by the field, the result might yet have been different. Nobody can predict what would have happened if Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan would have held on to the catches that came their way, one of the bat of Shane Watson and other from Maxwell, both of whom carried Australia to ultimate victory. But at this level if you drop these catches, it is impossible to go very far.
Wahab Riaz’s spell was one of the best bursts of genuine fast bowling that I have seen in a long time. This lad does not give up and plays with true grit and passion. He is a born athlete and seemed to the one player in the side who could inspire others. To that extent, I would strongly back his case to be Pakistan next ODI captain after Misbah retires.
For Misbah himself, it was a sad farewell. He took 59 balls over his 34 and although a cautious start was fully justified when he came in to bat, with Pakistan having lost two wickets for just 24, it was disappointing to see him getting out just when he should have accelerated. That meant that the near ten overs he took, were pretty much wasted. Afridi too was disappointing. Knowing that he going to take the aerial route, why did he not take the power play a couple of overs earlier which would have meant an extra fielder in the circle and more open spaces outside it. If this ploy did not strike him – although it should have after 19 years and some 400 ODIs under his belt – the coach or captain should have sent out someone with the idea.
Disappointing as it is to see Pakistan go home, one has to say that reaching the quarter finals was about as much as one had a right to expect. With a weak batting side and a fielding side not very much better, it would be unreasonable to expect the bowling to carry us through, that too with virtually no support from the field. Without sounding unduly pessimistic, it has to be said that one honestly does not see any prospect of a meaningful improvement in the batting around the corner. It is going to be a long struggle before this batting line up can come up to genuine international standards.
But the World Cup goes on and three of the four teams most of us had backed to reach the semis are there. If New Zealand gets there too, everything would have gone according to expectation.