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Cricket news - Are Pakistan making a hash of their hashtag?
It was rather unusual that they entered this tournament with batting looking to be their stronger suit. This was primarily due to an impressive surge in their scoring rates - which saw them cross the 300-run mark a lot often in the series against England. Before the start of the World Cup, their batsmen had scored nine centuries in total - albeit in losing causes - since the beginning of this year, which was the most for any team.
That Pakistan made the record for being the first team in ODI history to score 340 or more runs in three consecutive outings, that also against the number one side at its home, astonished many. After all, this wasn't anticipated due to their abysmal batting record in SENA countries.
With Jofra Archer and Mark Wood making brief appearances in the five-match series, the Pakistan batsmen weren't really peppered with the short-pitched stuff. The largely docile pitches and dry conditions, throughout the course of the series, further masked their collective fallibility on anything short and quick.
But, the West Indies hadn't forgotten about it. It now looks as if it was an integral component of their every dressing room discourse. So when the day came, all that Jason Holder's men did was to bang the ball hard on the deck and got their wickets column ticked.
Pakistan's struggles against short-bowling are well-documented. So, it seemed apt that #WeHaveWeWill - Pakistan's theme for this World Cup campaign - remained a permanent fixture on the social media throughout those two hours of agony. And, the fact that this meltdown came about despite Pakistan anticipating and preparing for short balls, as their head coach would reveal later, provides a peep into what is to unfold throughout the tournament.
There won't be any respite for Pakistan as almost every team participating in this tournament boasts a daunting pace attack with the ability to dish out shorter balls like the West Indies did. This isn't one of those shortcomings that can be brushed off overnight, and it is not that it will be dealt with in the future. Pakistan, over the years, haven't done much to eradicate the batsmen's backfoot woes despite numerous failed campaigns all over the world. In fact, the quality of the wickets at the domestic level continues to go downhill which hampers in the development of a strong technique. More on this sometime later. For now, #WeHaveWeWill, of course! The hashtag is a lot more than the mere inspiration for the team.
Pakistan are up against England at the same venue tomorrow. Archer continues to get quicker with every match - he bowled over 87mph in his opening spell against South Africa in the tournament opener. His wicket of Faf du Plessis, with a scorching bouncer, provided a glimpse of the harm he can cause. And, after Friday's debacle, Graham Thorpe, assistant coach of the English side, admitted that the prospects of unleashing Mark Wood, who also touches the 90mph marker regularly, in tandem with Archer will be discussed.
Like always, the expectations are now back on the Pakistan's bowling unit. There, however, remain questions over the team management's knowledge of its bowling arsenal. Hassan Ali - a bowler who has been lacklustre with the new ball but has enjoyed phenomenal success in the middle overs - opened the bowling with Mohammad Amir. While the latter exerted pressure in the defence of a paltry total by bowling tight, the former was taken to cleaners by Chris Gayle from the other end.
Perhaps, Gayle's stay at the crease could have been curtailed had Sarfraz Ahmed introduced Mohammad Hafeez, who has made a name for himself as an all-rounder by hunting the left-handed batsmen. It was flabbergasting that the introduction never came despite four of West Indies' top five batsmen being left-handed.
After getting crushed in their tournament opener Sarfraz promised to bounce back. Historically, such debacles have served as kicks up their bums and put Pakistan's plans in order. It has been the story of every miraculous coup that this side has pulled off. In 1992, they were beaten by 10 wickets by the West Indies and had only one win in the first five matches in that World Cup. They were thrashed by India by as many as 124 runs (D/L Method) at the start of the 2017 Champions Trophy. In the 2009 T20 WC, they suffered a 48-run defeat by England in their campaign openers. That's the #WeHave part of that hashtag.
Being the mercurial side they are, Pakistan are equally capable of turning this campaign around by defeating the home side on Monday. But, it will require some effort to put a halt on a losing streak which has already stretched to eleven matches, and beat the most daunting ODI side on a strip where they have set the two highest totals, one of them against Pakistan in 2016.
For now, the fruition of the #WeWill half of the hashtag looks improbable if not impossible.
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