To the relief of millions of Pakistanis all over the World, Pakistan qualified for the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals and, in the event, did so with much greater ease than perhaps most of us had expected. Yet, the main credit for this win, as for all of Pakistan’s wins in this tournament thus far bar the win against the UAE, must go to its seamers. On what was a flat Adelaide wicket with short boundaries on both sides square of the wicket, they held Ireland to 237. Ireland’s attack was very ordinary and their hopes of getting through to the quarters rested mainly on their batting and fielding. Pakistan’s seamers deserve every credit for the way they have performed so far although to be honest, I would have preferred to see Yasir Shah against Ireland rather than Ehsan Adil.
This time, the batting too came to the party led by an excellent unbeaten hundred by Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s first in this World Cup. The opening partnership between him and Ahmed Shahzad just showed how important it is to get a good start, for it made the target so easily achievable. Sarfraz must have been cut by some comments made about his ability to play the opening role and he has replied to them in the best possible way – with his bat.
Yet, good as the batting performance was, it lacked the sort of authority that would be required in this high scoring World Cup if Pakistan is to progress beyond the quarterfinals. Too many half volleys were pushed back and too many mickey mouse bouncers bowled at barely 122kph were ducked. The footwork of our batsmen was also wanting and while that did not cause too many problems against a mediocre attack, from now on the attacks that batsmen will have to face will be much more potent. To do well against them, techniques will have to improve.
So far, this tournament has recorded a very satifying achievement for the subcontinent in that all four subcontinental teams have qualified for the quarterfinals. The one big surprise has been the excellent performance of Bangladesh whose batting has been a real revelation. They have played with courage, confidence and conviction in their abilities and have posted good scores against major sides. I believe that although India will obviously be the favourites against them in their quarterfinal encounter, Bangladesh can by no means be ruled out.
The same applies to Pakistan’s quarterfinal tie against Australia. Australia have the huge advantage of playing at home, but if Pakistan can manage to bat first and post a decent score, it could be anybody’s game.
On paper at least, the closest game should be the first quarterfinal between Sri Lanka and South Africa. I would not be at all surprised to see Sri Lanka getting through because they have been batting brilliantly and in this form of cricket, that counts for more than anything else because it is a batting oriented game. Sangakkara is in the form of his life and he is getting excellent support from Dilshan, Jayawardene, Mathews and Thirimanne.
So do not be too surprised if you see more than one subcontinental team in the semis. It is a very real prospect.