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June 14, 2019

Time running out for Greenshirts

Sports

June 14, 2019

Time is running out for the Greenshirts as another failure in the World Cup would leave them struggling for a place in the semi-finals. Pakistan could have won against Australia if the run chase had been calculated and professionally handled.

In modern day cricket, a victory target of 308 is chaseable on a good batting track even if the opposition is equipped with good bowling resources. Australia definitely have a potent bowling attack capable of making inroads into the best batting lineups.

There was hue and cry that the Taunton pitch would be suitable for pace bowlers, forcing both Pakistan and Australia to go for a four-pronged pace attack. But the pitch turned out to be relatively easy paced, providing some assistance to the seamers early on.

Pakistan pacers — barring Mohammad Amir — took a little time in losing the initiative by spreading the ball around which provided Aaron Finch and David Warner ample opportunity to give Australia a blazing start. Pathetic fielding, dropped catches and a poor strategy turned out to be the order of the day.

Amir’s brilliance then restricted Australia to a reachable target. What followed was upsetting for every Pakistani fan. Specialist batsmen never accepted the challenge and those few who stayed at the crease for a good number of overs failed to carry on. Instead, the tail-enders came to the party and showed that stroke making and staying at the wicket was not all that difficult.

Those cricketers who were not selected in the original World Cup squad have started showing the selectors and team management that they were grossly mistaken about their abilities. Both Wahab Riaz and Amir have stood out so far.

The defeat against Australia has left Pakistan with a limited choice. With their next opponents being arch-rivals India, all excitement comes down to the match in Manchester. Whenever Pakistan play India it’s always a huge game, but their meeting on Sunday is shaping up to be more crucial than ever — a do-or-die affair for the Greenshirts.

Every player needs to bring out his best not only to beat India but to stay in the running for a place in the last-four and to wash away the impact of all the bad performances so far. The audience will be no less than a billion and expectations would be sky high from each side. It would be no exaggeration to say that the hype and potential of the encounter will be unmatchable.

Though Pakistan have never defeated India in a World Cup match, they have to get positives from their victory in the 2017 Champions Trophy final. Pakistan players will have to raise their game to a level which saw them going all guns blazing at the Oval two years ago. The question arises whether the team has the capacity to raise the level of their game and the answer definitely is yes. They did so in the Champions Trophy in which even after losing a one-sided pool match against India, the Greenshirts were far superior to their opponents in the final.

Saving wickets early on and making the best use of the opportunities should be the key points. Bringing back Shadab Khan in place of out-of-form Shoaib Malik and replacing Shaheen Shah Afridi with speedster Mohammad Hasnain will be ideal moves. If Hasnain does not get an opportunity against India, there is no use of his inclusion in the squad.

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